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International

Angry exchanges at top UN meeting on COVID-19

September 25, 2020 08:31 AM

- UN chief warns he fears the worst if world handles climate in the same way as it has the coronavirus pandemic.

United Nations, September 24, 2020
The United States, China and Russia fought bitterly on Thursday during a United Nations Security Council meeting on the coronavirus pandemic as United Nations chief Antonio Guterres told the body that they had failed in their handling of COVID-19.

Guterres blamed “a lack of global preparedness, cooperation, unity and solidarity” for the coronavirus spreading out of control and a death toll nearing one million globally. More than 32 million people have been diagnosed with the virus.

“The pandemic is a clear test of international cooperation – a test we have essentially failed, ” he told the 15-member body. If the climate crisis were approached in the same way, he said, “I fear the worst.”

US President Donald Trump, who is facing a re-election battle made more challenging by the disease’s spread across the country, on Tuesday demanded action against China for spreading the “plague” of COVID-19 to the world.

The US has reported more than 200, 000 deaths, the highest in the world and accuses Beijing of a lack of transparency that it says has worsened the outbreak. China denies the claims.

US Ambassador Kelly Craft reiterated those accusations at the council’s virtual meeting, drawing an angry response from her Chinese counterpart Zhang Jun.

“Enough is enough, ” he said. “You have created enough troubles for the world already. … The US should understand that blaming others will not solve its own problems.”

Speaking in English and noting the US deaths and cases, Zhang continued: “With the most advanced medical technologies and system in the world, why has the US turned out to have the most confirmed cases and fatalities?

“If someone should be held accountable, it should be a few US politicians themselves.”

The US “is completely isolated, ” he added in remarks enthusiastically backed by his Russian counterpart.

Long-simmering tensions between the US and China have hit boiling point over the pandemic, spotlighting Beijing’s bid for greater multilateral influence in a challenge to Washington’s traditional leadership.

Craft’s attack took many diplomats off-guard.

“Shame on each of you, ” she said.

“I am astonished and I am disgusted by the content of today’s discussion … I am actually really quite ashamed of this council – members of the council who took this opportunity to focus on political grudges rather than the critical issue at hand. My goodness.”

Diplomats said they were puzzled at the tone taken by Craft, who had left by the time the Chinese ambassador spoke.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov – without naming names – noted that the pandemic had deepened differences between states.

“We see attempts on the part of individual countries to use the current situation in order to move forward their narrow interests of the moment, in order to settle the score with an undesirable government or geopolitical competitors, ” he said.

China’s top diplomat Wang Yi, meanwhile, called for better coordination and cooperation.
- AJ/AFP

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