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Months later, U.N. Security Council backs call for coronavirus truce

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday finally backed U.N. chief Antonio Guterres’ March 23 call for a global truce amid the coronavirus pandemic, adopting a resolution after months of talks to win a compromise between the United States and China.

FILE PHOTO: Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres speaks during a Security Council meeting about the situation in Syria at U.N. Headquarters in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., February 28, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The resolution, drafted by France and Tunisia, calls for “all parties to armed conflicts to engage immediately in a durable humanitarian pause for at least 90 consecutive days” to allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Negotiations on the resolution were stymied by a standoff between China and the United States over whether to urge support for the World Health Organization. The United States did not want a reference to the global health body, while China did.

U.S. President Donald Trump said in May that Washington would quit the Geneva-based U.N. agency over its handling of the pandemic, accusing it of being “China-centric” and promoting China’s “disinformation,” assertions the WHO denies.

The adopted Security Council resolution does not mention the WHO but references a U.N. General Assembly resolution that does.

“We have really seen the body at its worst,” Richard Gowan, International Crisis Group U.N. director, said of the council. “This is a dysfunctional Security Council.”

Guterres’ spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: “The adoption of this resolution will send an important signal to conflict parties and may help change calculations on the ground.”

The United States and China both took veiled swipes at each other after the resolution was adopted.

The United States said in a statement that while it supported the resolution “it does not include crucial language to emphasize transparency and data-sharing as critical aspects in fighting this virus.”

China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun acknowledged the body “should have responded immediately” to Guterres’ call, adding: “We were very frustrated that some country politicized this process.”

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Tom Brown

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