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September 23, 2020

UN General Assembly virtual session: ‘Time to avoid a new Cold War for focus on Covid’

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September 23, 2020

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres Tuesday urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it could focus on the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We must do everything to avoid a new Cold War," Guterres said in an address as he opened an almost entirely virtual UN General Assembly. "We are moving in a very dangerous direction. Our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe in a Great Fracture – each with its own trade and financial rules and internet and artificial intelligence capacities," he said, without saying the United States and China by name.

Tensions have soared between the United States and China in recent months, with President Donald Trump blaming Beijing for the Covid-19 pandemic that has claimed some 950,000 lives around the world and cast a shadow over his reelection bid.

Guterres has campaigned for an end to all violent conflicts as the world instead focuses on stopping the disease. He pointed to some partial successes including ceasefires declared in Cameroon, Colombia and Cameroon.

He pressed for a universal ceasefire by the end of the year. "I appeal for a stepped-up international effort -- led by the Security Council -- to achieve a global ceasefire by the end of this year," Guterres said. "We have 100 days. The clock is ticking."

Guterres also offered open criticism of right-wing movements in the face of the coronavirus. "Populism and nationalism have failed. Those approaches to contain the virus have often made things manifestly worse. "

US President Donald Trump told the UN General Assembly that China must be held accountable by the world for its actions over the Covid-19 pandemic. In a recorded message played to the annual meeting of the UN, Trump accused Beijing of allowing the coronavirus to "leave China and infect the world."

President Xi Jinping gave a robust defense of China´s ambitions in a speech to the UN, warning against the perils of a "clash of civilizations" during a pandemic that has ripped through the world.

In an opening address presaged by a demand by his US counterpart Donald Trump for China to be held "accountable" for the coronavirus outbreak, Xi said global unity was the only way to overcome the crisis.

The world must "oppose politicization and stigmatization" over Covid-19, Xi said in the pre-recorded address, urging world leaders to embrace the "concept of a big family... and avoid falling into the trap of a clash of civilizations." But Xi reassured world leaders his country had no desire for "hegemony, expansion or sphere of influence."

"China has no intention to enter a Cold War with any country," he said, insisting Beijing is instead a bulwark of international systems such as the World Trade Organization and a willing partner in the face of diplomatic spats.