France and Germany call for cease-fires to fight the pandemic

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Top French and German diplomats on Thursday called for enhanced action to quickly implement a new United Nations Security Council resolution demanding ceasefires in major world conflicts to fight coronavirus pandemic. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a virtual council meeting that “we must now redouble our efforts”, highlighting the conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sahelian Africa and in Afghanistan where “the situation remains extremely unstable and the civilian populations continue to suffer the consequences. ”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who chaired the meeting, urged council members, often divided, to implement the “long overdue” resolution by working together on ceasefires in selected countries . “We all know that they can facilitate humanitarian access and serve as entry points for political talks,” he said.

The most powerful organ of the United Nations voted unanimously to adopt the resolution after the United States and China resolved a dispute of more than three months over the mention of the World Health Organization, to which the Trump administration opposed and on which Beijing insisted. The compromise test does not mention the United States health agency, which the United States has stopped funding, but refers to a General Assembly resolution that supports WHO guidelines.

The resolution, drafted by France and Tunisia, supports the March 23 appeal of the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, to a world cease-fire due to the pandemic and demands an “immediate cessation of hostilities” in all conflicts on the Council’s agenda.

He called on all warring parties “to immediately commit to a lasting humanitarian pause for at least 90 consecutive days” in order to allow the safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid and medical evacuations. It exempts military operations against ISIS and extremist groups in Al-Qaida and their affiliates.

The secretary general said that his call for a ceasefire had “produced positive results, but that these have since expired or, in some cases, broken down,” and he welcomed the council’s request. stop fighting.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to deeply affect peace and security around the world,” António Guterres told the council. “The consequences can be seen even in a number of countries traditionally considered” stable “. But the impacts are particularly apparent in countries already in conflict or emerging from it – and may soon engulf others. ”

Guterres said that in the sudden Darfur region of Sudan, for example, the pandemic and other challenges have led to repeated extensions of the deadline to complete a peace process. In Somalia, Al-Shabab extremists continue frequent attacks despite the coronavirus epidemic and may increase violence as security forces focus on the pandemic, he added.

The secretary general said that elections or referendums have been held in 18 countries since the pandemic started in March, but 24 have been postponed. In the fragile Central African Republic, still plagued by violence, tensions have increased “due to attempts to use the pandemic as a pretext to postpone the holding of elections scheduled for the end of the year,” he said. declared.

Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, told the council that conflict zones are “the brutal end” of pandemics where people are already living on the edge.

He told council that his organization sees firsthand how COVID-19 and its “economic aftershocks” reinforce “global fragility”, accentuating humanitarian needs, accentuating the impact of violence and conflict, opening the doors to alarming levels of stigma, increasing globalization, poverty (and) increasing instability and tensions. ”

According to the Red Cross analysis, “there are now around 100 armed conflicts in the world” involving 60 governments and more than 100 armed groups, and the number of conflicts has grown steadily in recent years. decades, he said.

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