Saudi Arabia and Russia pandemic resolutions blocked at UN

Security Council begins work on draft text urging cooperation during crisis

A cyclist passes the United Nations headquarters Thursday, April 16, 2020, in New York. New York planned for a long fight against the coronavirus outbreak amid hopeful hospitalization trends. Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended stay-at-home restrictions Thursday through mid-May and New York City is getting ready to use 11,000 empty hotel rooms for coronavirus quarantines. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Iran and Syria on Wednesday blocked the adoption of a Saudi-proposed resolution in the UN General Assembly, calling for global co-operation to counter the coronavirus pandemic and economic fallout, diplomats said.

The Saudi resolution largely reflected the conclusions of a March 26 summit of the G20, which the kingdom currently chairs.

A Russian-proposed text on the pandemic was also blocked on Wednesday, diplomats said.

It sought a commitment from UN member states "to face global challenges as good neighbours, refraining from implementing protectionist and discriminatory measures inconsistent with the World Trade Organisation rules".

It was blocked by the US and several European countries.

On April 3, a Russian draft resolution proposing international sanctions be lifted while the world fights the pandemic was rejected.

Besides the US and EU countries, the latest Russian move was also blocked by two key US allies, Israel and South Korea.

The General Assembly cannot meet in New York because of the global health crisis, so in late March it came up with a new way of considering resolutions.

When a text is proposed, after a waiting period, if no country objects it is classified as being approved.

If there are objections, the text is defeated.

Unlike votesd before the pandemic, which required a majority, this new system effectively gives all 193 UN members veto power over a given text.

Security Council begins push for pandemic ceasefire

The UN Security Council on Wednesday began work on a draft resolution co-authored by Tunisia and France urging "enhanced co-ordination" and a general ceasefire in conflicts amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The three-page draft was delivered to the 15 members of the Security Council.

It calls for "all parties to armed conflicts to engage immediately in a durable humanitarian pause for at least 30 consecutive days".

But it exempts military operations against ISIS, Al Qaeda, Jabhat Al Nusra and all "terrorist" groups listed by the Security Council.

Discussions will begin soon after the members have given their first comments on the text, diplomats said.

"There will be no negotiations as such," said one diplomat, adding that a vote could take place early next week.

A decisive push for the text could come at a video conference of the leaders of the five permanent members, which may be held on Friday, Russian media reported.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for a global ceasefire last month as the world fought the pandemic that has forced more than half of humanity behind closed doors.

Western nations have buckled under the strain, with hospitals struggling to cope and the world facing unprecedented economic fallout.

The crisis has fuelled fears for millions of people living in conflict zones such as Yemen and Afghanistan, developing countries with healthcare systems that have already suffered from violence and poverty.

Any break in the fighting could prove pivotal as they struggle to cope with outbreaks, allowing vital aid to reach those in need.

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