World leaders including Trump and China’s Xi Jinping virtually take the stage at UN meeting

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As world leaders virtually gathered for the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin argued that ending “illegitimate sanctions” against countries like his could boost the coronavirus-stricken global economy and create jobs.On the 75th anniversary of the UN, the Russian president stressed the importance and need for multilateral cooperation to combat the pandemic and other global issues.

“Liberating world trade from illegitimate barriers, bans, restrictions and sanctions would be of great help in revitalizing global growth and reducing unemployment,” he said at the annual gathering of world leaders, held virtually this year in due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Putin has been pushing for years to end US and EU sanctions imposed on Moscow after annexing Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, has been accused of meddling in the 2016 US election and other actions. Moscow regards the annexation of Crimea as legitimate and denies any interference in the vote that gave Donald Trump the US presidency.

Russia has also drawn international criticism for quickly approving a COVID-19 vaccine, and some Western experts have said it has cut costs in testing. Putin touted the vaccine on national television and said one of his adult daughters had already been vaccinated.

On Tuesday, he offered to provide the vaccine free of charge to all UN staff. However, Russian and Western experts insist that more studies are needed to determine the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine.

Putin continued to call for unity and urged countries to reaffirm their commitment to the United Nations charter and international law, lamenting a “deficit of humanity and kindness” between countries amid the pandemic.

He repeatedly emphasized the role of the Soviet Union in helping defeat the Nazis during World War II – the conflict that gave birth to the United Nations. Despite calls for sweeping UN reform, Putin said the five permanent members of the Security Council should retain their veto power, and said their leaders agreed to a face-to-face meeting once the pandemic took it. would allow.

“In an interconnected and interdependent world, in the whirlwind of international events, it is necessary to act together and be based on the principles of international law enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations”, he declared.

American and Chinese tensions

Previously, Chinese President Xi Jinping told delegates that Beijing has no intention of waging “a cold or hot war with any country” as tensions grow between China and the United States.

“We will continue to narrow differences and resolve disputes with others through dialogue and negotiation. We will not seek to develop solely or engage in a zero-sum game, ”Xi said in a pre-recorded video statement.

Persistent tensions between the United States and China reached their boiling point during the pandemic, highlighting Beijing’s attempt for greater multilateral influence in a challenge to traditional Washington rulers.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, appearing on video, is seen on an outdoor screen as pedestrians walk below in Beijing on Tuesday. (Greg Baker / AFP / Getty Images)

The coronavirus emerged in China late last year, and Washington has accused Beijing of a lack of transparency which it says has exacerbated the epidemic. China denies the claims of the United States.

In what appeared to be a rebuke to US President Donald Trump, though the two leaders’ speeches were pre-recorded, Xi called for a global response to the virus and for the World Health Organization to take a leading role.

Xi’s speech followed Trump telling the UN that it “must hold China accountable” for its actions related to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Chinese government and the World Health Organization, which is virtually controlled by China, have falsely stated that there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission,” said Trump, who provided no evidence of his assertion, also said in a pre-recorded statement. message.

As of Tuesday, the death toll in the United States from the coronavirus surpassed 200,000, a figure unimaginable eight months ago. Trump has been blamed for making the pandemic worse by ignoring the virus and obscuring the country’s federal response to stem its spread.

US President Donald Trump is seen during the 75th Annual General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City. The meeting is being held essentially virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (United Nations / Reuters)

The US president has promised to distribute a vaccine. “We will end the pandemic,” he said, and enter a new era of prosperity, cooperation and peace.

Trump, a frequent critic of the UN, also said in the excerpts that if the organization is to be effective, it must focus on “the real problems of the world” such as “terrorism, the oppression of women, work. forced, drug trafficking, human and sex trafficking, religious persecution and ethnic cleansing of religious minorities. ”

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, seen during a pre-recorded speech at the United Nations General Assembly, defended his government’s environmental record and the response to the coronavirus pandemic. (Marcos Correa / Brazilian Presidency / Reuters)

Bolsonaro defends the environmental record

Meanwhile, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has defended his administration’s record in protecting the Amazon rainforest, telling world leaders his country has been wrongly portrayed as an environmental villain.

Speaking first, as is tradition for the Brazilian leader, Bolsonaro said the South American nation has been successful in boosting agricultural exports to feed a growing global population, which has made it a target.

“We are the victims of one of the most brutal disinformation campaigns on the Amazon and the Pantanal wetlands,” Bolsonaro said. “The Brazilian Amazon is well known for being very rich. This explains why international institutions support such campaigns based on subsequent interests, joined by interested and unpatriotic Brazilian associations, with the aim of harming the government and Brazil itself. ”

Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon region may have peaked at 14 years in the 12 months of July, according to preliminary data released last month by the country’s space agency. The final data will be published in the coming months.

Fires have also gotten out of hand in Brazil’s Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland, with the number of fires surpassing 16,000 to date in 2020 – far more than any full year recorded since 1998.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at the United Nations General Assembly. (United Nations / Reuters)

Bolsonaro came to power in 2019, promising to open up the Amazon further to development, like agriculture and mining. International concern, especially after the fires last year, has led investors to try to distance themselves from the increasing deforestation and to pressure Bolsonaro’s government to take more action against it.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in his speech that any COVID-19 vaccine should be universally available, regardless of where it is produced.

“Regardless of the country in which they are produced, vaccines that are ready to be administered should be presented for the common use of mankind,” he said in a video speech.

Erdogan also proposed a regional conference with all Mediterranean coastal states, including the separatist Turkish Cypriots, to deal with tensions over maritime borders and oil exploration in the region.

He said Turkey’s primary preference was to resolve the disagreements “in a fair and proper manner” through talks, but added that “futile” attempts to exclude Turkey from plans in the eastern Mediterranean could not succeed.

NATO members Turkey and Greece disagree over rights to potential energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean and the extent of their continental shelves.

Tensions escalated last month when Turkey sent a seismic survey vessel into waters claimed by Greece and Cyprus, but cooled somewhat last week when Ankara recalled the vessel in a move hailed by the Greece and the EU.

“I would like to reiterate our call to establish dialogue and cooperation with the Mediterranean coastal states,” said Erdogan. “We therefore propose the holding of a regional conference where the rights and interests of all coastal states are taken into account, and where the Turkish Cypriots are also present.”

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