UN council tries again to agree on COVID-19 resolution
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The U.N. Security Council is trying again to reach agreement on its first resolution since the coronavirus pandemic started circling the globe over two months ago, but a dispute between the U.S. and China over mentioning the World Health Organization remains unresolved.
The United States on Friday objected to a proposed resolution drafted by France and Tunisia after diplomats said it had agreed to compromise language with China that didn't directly mention the U.N. health agency.
The 15 council ambassadors discussed how to proceed in closed consultations on Tuesday and afterward Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said "all council members are willing to come to a final agreement."
"I would assure you that the willingness to mend bridges is there, and we will attempt it in the nearest times," he told a video news conference. "We have to respect the differences that we nearly managed to bridge, but still have not arrived there yet."
Nebenzia said there was agreement on almost all the rest of the resolution, the main focus of which is to back Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' March 23 call for global cease-fires to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tunisia's U.N. Ambassador Kais Kabtani said after the meeting that "Tunisian authorities are conducting at this moment intensive consultations at the highest political level" to resolve the differences.
He said new compromises with be presented by Tunisia and France "very soon" in hopes of reaching consensus.
Meanwhile Germany and Estonia circulated a much shorter draft resolution on Tuesday that focuses only on supporting cease-fires. There is no mention of a U.N. agency dealing with health, which China had accepted but the U.S. later rejected, or of "transparency" on COVID-19, which the U.S. wanted.
Germany's U.N. Ambassador Christoph Heusgen said it is time to achieve the goal of trying to help those in conflicts, now compounded by COVID-19.
Germany's U.N. Mission tweeted that at the closed meeting Heusgen again underscored "the absolute importance" that the Security Council address the pandemic, and said supporting the secretary-general's "call for an immediate global cease-fire must supersede all other priorities."
Like the France-Tunisia draft, the German-Estonia draft demands immediate cease-fires 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 90 days to deliver aid.
The Estonia-Germany draft, obtained by The Associated Press, says these measures do not apply to military operations against the Islamic State and al-Qaida extremist groups and their affiliates.
It also expresses "growing concern about the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on countries ravaged by armed conflicts, or in post-conflict situations, or affected by humanitarian crises" and recognizes "that conditions of violence and instability in conflict situations can exacerbate the pandemic."