U.S.-China Covid Clash; Europe Seeks Climate Coalition: UN Wrap

U.S.-China Covid Clash; Europe Seeks Climate Coalition: UN Wrap

There’s one thing most world leaders, CEOs and aid workers seem to agree on as they meet virtually at the United Nations General Assembly: World powers have failed to come together to address the Covid-19 pandemic, leaving the world’s most vulnerable at risk.

That divide was clear on Thursday as a virtual UN Security Council meeting to discuss the global response to the virus descended into a blame game putting the U.S. against China and Russia.

After China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke, making veiled jabs at the Trump administration’s “America First” approach, Kelly Craft, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said she was “astonished and disgusted.”

“To chart a better future we must hold accountable the nation that unleashed this plague unto the world: China,” Craft told the council in virtual remarks.

China’s Ambassador Zhang Jun pushed back, saying some “U.S. politicians have been obsessed with attacking other countries and UN bodies” while “spreading political virus and disinformation, and creating confrontation and division.”

“Such practice cannot defeat the virus. On the contrary, it has seriously disrupted the joint efforts of the international community to fight the pandemic,” he said. “I must say, enough is enough. You have created enough troubles for the world already.”

Russia’s UN envoy, Vassily Nebenzya, came to China’s aid, telling Craft that while she called on nations to unite, “the crux of her statement and its tone” didn’t reflect those words.

Also during the UN General Assembly on Thursday:

  • At a climate action event, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for the creation of a “high-ambition coalition” of countries that would commit to climate change targets in line with the Paris Agreement. That would include China, which this week pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.
  • Also on climate, former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said he was working to make it mandatory for all companies to disclose their exposure to climate risks. He said he wanted this to be agreed to as part of the next round of global climate change talks in November 2021.
  • Saudi Arabia warned that “Safer,” a tanker containing about 1 million barrels of oil anchored off Yemen, “has reached a critical state of degradation” and the “situation is a serious threat to all Red Sea countries,” according to a letter to the Security Council. The Saudis urged the council to ensure that Houthi rebels, who they are fighting, allow UN officials access to the tanker.
  • Libya’s Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, who announced this month that he intends to step down by the end of October for a new government to unite the war-ravaged North African state, used his speech to slam countries for interfering in Libyan affairs, calling on foreign forces and mercenaries to “withdraw from all Libyan territory” and for seaports and oil fields to be reopened.
  • The U.S. will provide an additional $720 million in humanitarian aid for Syrians in both their home country and in the region, Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun said in a virtual event on the sidelines of UNGA.

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