UN Chief urges global unity to defeat virus

Foreign Desk Report

NEW YORK: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Friday renewed his clarion call to warring parties across the world to lay down their weapons and join “our shared battle” against the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
“To silence the guns, we must raise the voices for peace,” he said in a virtual press conference outlining the impact so far of the ceasefire appeal that he made ten days ago. On March 23, Guterres called for an immediate global ceasefire to help people in war-torn regions receive life-saving aid to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
He said warring parties in 11 countries have responded positively to his appeal for a global cease-fire, but turning words into peace is enormously difficult and fighting has escalated in major conflicts including Yemen, Libya and Afghanistan.
He called on all governments, groups and people with influence “to urge and pressure combatants around the world to put down their arms,” saying the need is urgent because “the COVID-19 storm” is now coming to all conflict areas.
“We know the pandemic is having profound social, economic and political consequences, including relating to international peace and security”, the UN chief said.
He cited sustained restrictions on movement by governments everywhere, and factors that could contribute to rising discontent and political tensions, but maintained that “the global ceasefire appeal is resonating across the world”.
He said that the call has been endorsed by 70 Member States, regional partners, non-State actors, and others.
“Religious leaders including Pope Francis have added their moral voice in support of a global ceasefire, as have citizens through grassroots mobilization online”, he told reporters.
Although a substantial number of fighters and militias have accepted the call, the UN chief stressed that t”here is a huge distance between declarations and deeds” between translating words into peace on the ground, and in the lives of people”. He acknowledged the “enormous difficulties” in implementing a truce to halt conflicts that have festered for years, where “distrust is deep”, and recognized that “any initial gains are fragile and easily reversible”.
The UN chief observed that in many critical situations, there has been no let-up in fighting, and in some, conflicts have even intensified. Guterres explained that he and his envoys are engaging with conflict actors to help push forward ceasefires.
As the UN Special Envoy in Yemen works to convene the parties to discuss COVID-19 crisis management and nationwide ceasefire mechanisms, the conflict has spiked – despite expressed support for a truce by the Government and warring parties.
“I call on all governments and movements involved and their supporters to put an end to the catastrophic conflict and humanitarian nightmare and come to the negotiatting table”, implored the UN chief. Turning to Libya, although the warring parties have welcomed calls to stop the fighting, clashes have escalated drastically on all frontlines, obstructing efforts to effectively respond to COVID-19.