Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 27 October 2020

UN General Assembly

UNGA 2020: China, Russia and US trade barbs over pandemic responses

UN chief Antonio Guterres expresses concern that coronavirus is spreading against backdrop of 'high political tensions'

American Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft arrives for the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, where she accused China of being the cause of the coronavirus outbreak. AP
American Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft arrives for the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, where she accused China of being the cause of the coronavirus outbreak. AP

The US clashed with China and Russia at the UN Security Council on Thursday over how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, deepening a rift between the three countries.

Speaking by videolink, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on nations to “abandon Cold War mentality and ideological bias” to overcome global challenges such as Covid-19.

"Unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction needs to be opposed in order to safeguard the authority and sanctity of international law,” Mr Wang said.

Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, later said that amid the pandemic, "common misfortune did not iron out inter-state differences, but to the contrary deepened them".

Mr Lavrov said several countries are increasingly tempted to blame others for their own problems with coronavirus, in a thinly veiled reference to the US.

“There are obvious attempts by individual states to use the current situation to promote self-serving and fleeting interests, and to settle scores with unwanted governments or geopolitical rivals,” he said.

"And we see attempts on the part of individual countries to use the current situation to move forward their narrow interests of the moment in order to settle the score with the undesirable governments or geopolitical competitors."

Kelly Craft, the US representative to the UN, did not hold back in her speech, directing her criticism at the whole council, although mainly at China and Russia.

“Shame on each of you. I am astonished and I am disgusted by the content of today’s discussion,” Ms Craft said.

“I am actually really quite ashamed of this council, members of the council, who took this opportunity to focus on political grudges rather than the critical issue at hand. My goodness.

"President Trump has made it very clear. We will do whatever is right, even if it's unpopular, because, let me tell you what, this is not a popularity contest."

She then said the US had allocated more than $20 billion to vaccine development, therapeutics and medical infrastructure, and that the World Health Organisation’s reputation was in “tatters”.

In July, the US confirmed it would formally withdraw from the WHO on July 6, 2021, and redirect funds to American global health priorities.

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly accused the UN agency of not sharing crucial information about the virus early in the pandemic and claimed it was at Beijing's bidding.

"The Chinese Communist Party's decision to hide the origins of this virus, minimise its danger and suppress scientific co-operation transformed a local epidemic into a global pandemic," Ms Craft said.

At an earlier event in the Security Council, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres voiced concern over lack of international co-operation in tackling the virus, which he said was “still out of control”.

On Tuesday, at the virtual opening of the General Assembly, Mr Trump blamed China for the pandemic, urging states to hold them accountable for “unleashing this plague on to the world”.

Responding to his speech, Chinese UN ambassador Zhang Jun said his country “resolutely opposes and rejects the baseless accusations by the United States".

"Abusing the platform of the UN and its Security Council, the US has been spreading political virus and disinformation, and creating confrontation and division," Mr Zhang said.

"The US should understand that its failure in handling Covid-19 is totally its fault."

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a long-time critic of China, on Tuesday accused Beijing of trying to foment unrest in America through its accusations of racism.

Updated: September 25, 2020 04:10 AM

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