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France and Tunisia urged the UN Security Council on Tuesday to adopt a resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire in major conflicts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic after weeks of contentious negotiations that have paralyzed the United Nations’ most powerful body.
France, one of five veto-wielding permanent council members, and Tunisia, one of 10 elected members, melded their rival resolutions in hopes of winning approval for the first council resolution since COVID-19 started circling the globe. But diplomats say a vote has been held up primarily over a dispute between the United States and China on including a reference to the World Health Organization.
President Donald Trump suspended funding to WHO in early April, accusing the UN health agency of failing to stop the virus from spreading when it first surfaced in China, saying it “must be held accountable,’’ and accusing WHO of parroting Beijing.
China strongly supports WHO and is insisting that its role in calling for global action on COVID-19 be included in any resolution, diplomats say, while the US insists on a reference to “transparency” on COVID-19 and no mention of the WHO.
Ambassadors from the 15 council nations met privately Tuesday on the French-Tunisian draft resolution and France’s UN Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere said later it was “a good discussion.”
“France and Tunisia are working hard on it, things are moving forward,” he said. “The Security Council must act now.”
Tunisia’s UN Ambassador Kais Kabtani told several journalists that the two countries are working “very hard to present a final package deal” and are relying “on the spirit of compromise from the council members.”
At the meeting, he said, “Tunisia highlighted the urgency of concluding the ongoing consultations process on the draft resolution on COVID-19 in the next few days”
“It’s a moment of truth for the United Nations and the multilateral system which faces the most difficult crisis the UN has been confronted with since World War II,” Kabtani said.
The 193-member UN General Assembly approved two resolutions on COVID-19 in April.
One recognizes “the unprecedented effects” of the pandemic and calls for “intensified international cooperation to contain, mitigate and defeat” the new coronavirus. The other urges global action to rapidly scale up development, manufacturing and access to medicine, vaccines and medical equipment to confront the pandemic.
General Assembly resolutions reflect the opinion of governments around the world but are not legally binding. By contrast, Security Council resolutions are legally binding.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who called for a cease-fire to all global conflicts on March 23 to tackle COVID-19, told reporters last Thursday: “It is my hope the Security Council will be able to find unity and adopt decisions that can help to make cease-fires meaningful and real.”
The draft French-Tunisian resolution demands an immediate cease-fire in major conflicts that are on the Security Council agenda from Syria and Yemen to Libya, South Sudan and Congo, and calls for all parties to armed conflicts “to engage immediately in a durable humanitarian pause for at least 30 consecutive days” to deliver aid.
The draft, obtained by The Associated Press, states that these measures do not apply to military operations against the Islamic State and al-Qaida extremist groups and their affiliates.