UNSC to hold talks on US-China tiff months after COVID-19 pandemic


The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) will for the first time hold a closed session on Thursday to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 74,000 people and infected over 1.3 million globally.


Council President for the month of April, the Dominican Republic, said it has formally scheduled a closed video-teleconferencing (VTC) “regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the issues that fall under the UNSC mandate”.


UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will participate in the session on Thursday afternoon as a briefer. It remains to be seen whether any press statement on the COVID-19 situation is issued after the meeting.


Special Envoy from Dominican Republic to UN Ambassador Jose Singer and President of Security Council for April said that a Council meeting on the coronavirus situation had been requested by five or six ambassadors and the Dominican Republic was working to schedule the discussion.


When asked for any resolution on COVID-19 is excepted when the Council meets to discuss the issue, Singer had said last week “we have not discussed the issue of a resolution, we are first expecting to hold that meeting, and then we’ll see how events play out”.


In the four months since the outbreak originated in China, efforts to discuss the coronavirus situation in the Security Council have stalled mainly due to the bitter stalemate between Washington and Beijing.


The Council’s two veto-wielding permanent members are divided over the origin of the pandemic.


The 193-member UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution, co-sponsored by 188 nations including India, on COVID-19, calling for intensified international cooperation to defeat the pandemic and stressing that racism and xenophobia have no place in the response to the pandemic.


The resolution titled ‘Global solidarity to fight the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)’ was the first such document on the global pandemic to be adopted by the world organisation.


China’s Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun, as he took over the presidency of the Council in March, was asked whether China plans to discuss the coronavirus emergency. He had said there is no need to panic over the coronavirus epidemic and Beijing does not plan to discuss the situation in the Council during its presidency, even adding that the world is not far from the defeat of COVID-19 “with the coming of spring”.


He added that the issue of coronavirus falls within the concept of global public health while the Security Council’s primary responsibility is dealing with the geo-political security and peace matters.


“So, the public health security issue is not in the scope of the mandate of the Security Council in a narrow concept. But what we do think is important is that the Security Council will also watch the situation very closely. At this moment, we do not have any plan to have a specific discussion on this issue,” Zhang had said.