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Guterres Calls for Collective Action on Epidemic Preparedness Day

“When the next pandemic arrives, we must do better. But we’re not yet ready. We must prepare and act on the lessons of Covid-19,” urged the top UN official…reports Asian Lite News

In his message marking the International Day of Epidemic Preparedness, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has emphasized the imperative for global preparedness against future pandemics, drawing on the lessons from the Covid-19 crisis.

“When the next pandemic arrives, we must do better. But we’re not yet ready. We must prepare and act on the lessons of Covid-19,” urged the top UN official.

“We must renounce the moral and medical disaster of rich countries hoarding and controlling pandemic healthcare supplies, and ensure everyone has access to diagnostics, treatments and vaccines,” he stressed, adding that the authority of the World Health Organization (WHO) and financing must also be strengthened.

He said the way forward lies through global cooperation. The world must improve surveillance of viruses, strengthen health systems, and make the promise of Universal Health Coverage a reality, Xinhua news agency reported.

The UN chief said these efforts are making progress. He recalled that the High-level meeting on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response, held in September, concluded with a robust political declaration which complements negotiations underway towards a pandemic accord.

“Together, let’s act on the lessons of Covid-19, prepare, and build a fairer, healthier world for all,” he said.

The UN General Assembly designated December 27 as the International Day of Epidemic Preparedness in its resolution on December 7, 2020

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UN Chief Honours Late Kuwaiti Emir

Guterres remarked that Sheikh Nawaf was recognized as an Emir embodying wisdom, forgiveness, and peace—qualities that, unfortunately, are scarce…reports Asian Lite News

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres paid tribute to Kuwait’s ruling Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, who died last week at the age of 86.

Sheikh Nawaf dedicated his life to the people of Kuwait. For nearly six decades, on the domestic and global stages, he served at the highest levels of government, across a diverse range of ministerial positions. Far beyond Kuwait’s borders, he was a respected statesman, Guterres told a UN General Assembly plenary meeting on Wednesday dedicated to the memory of the late Emir.

“He was a determined champion of preventive diplomacy — an approach that helped define Kuwait’s role across the Gulf region and around the world. He was a steadfast voice of regional and global stability, peace and multilateralism — the very values and goals that give life to this chamber (of the General Assembly),” he said.

“He was a generous humanitarian, helping to ease human suffering and mobilise support for millions of people in need around the region and the world. And his personal commitment to collective solutions to forge peace remains an inspiration,” the UN Chief added.

Sheikh Nawaf was seen as an Emir of wisdom, forgiveness and peace — qualities that are in tragically short supply, said Guterres.

“As we look around the world today, we see a planet in turmoil. Conflicts, climate catastrophe, mistrust, inequalities and injustice are driving people, countries and entire regions apart. As we honour the memory of Sheikh Nawaf today, let us also remember our own obligations … to the principles for which he stood: to be wise in our decisions and actions, recognising the impact they have on the world around us, and on future generations; to be forgiving of one another, accepting of our differences, understanding of one another’s points of view, and respectful of every person’s worth; and to be willing to collaborate and compromise to forge a world of peace that our children deserve. This is our solemn responsibility, and one that Sheikh Nawaf clearly demonstrated through his words and his actions.”

The UN Chief extended his condolences to the late Emir’s family and the government and people of Kuwait, Xinhua news agency reported.

He extended his best wishes to the late Emir’s brother Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, who has taken over the leadership of Kuwait.

Guterres reaffirmed the United Nations’ willingness to continue its strong partnership and friendship with Kuwait.

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UN chief calls for elimination of N-weapons

UN chief called on countries to strengthen their commitments to reducing and, eventually, eliminating nuclear weapons….reports Asian Lite News

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has warned of “humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions” due to the geopolitical mistrust and competition that has made nuclear risk escalate to Cold War levels.

“Any use of a nuclear weapon – anytime, anywhere and in any context – would unleash a humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions,” he told the UN General Assembly on the final day of its yearly session on Tuesday as North Korea warned that the US was pushing it to the brink of war.

With an evolving nuclear order in which armed nations are expanding and modernising their arsenals, the UN chief called on countries to strengthen their commitments to reducing and, eventually, eliminating nuclear weapons.

In a statement released on the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, Guterres reminded UN member states of the recently launched policy brief on A New Agenda for Peace – which calls for a recommitment to non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

“On this important Day, we re-affirm our commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons and the humanitarian catastrophe their use would unleash,” Guterres said in the statement.

“This means nuclear-weapon States leading the way by meeting their disarmament obligations, and committing to never use nuclear weapons under any circumstances.”

Meanwhile, North Korea, in one of the last speeches of the week-long UN General Assembly debate, accused the United States of driving the peninsula “closer to the brink of nuclear war” because of its tighter cooperation with South Korea.

Kim Song, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, pointed to the recent formation of the Nuclear Consultative Group, through which the US hopes to integrate its nuclear capacity better with South Korea’s conventional forces.

The two allies would increase information sharing and contingency planning, which Kim alleged was to execute a “preemptive nuclear strike” against North Korea.

“Due to its sycophantic and humiliating policy of depending on outside forces, the Korean peninsula is in a hair-trigger situation with imminent danger of nuclear war,” Kim said.

“Do you really believe, as the DPRK pretends, the Republic of Korea together with the United States conspires to provoke a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula without reasons that will cause catastrophic casualties,” he asked.

Hours earlier, South Korea staged its first military parade in a decade, with some 4,000 troops marching through a rainy Seoul.

Yoon Suk-yeol, South Korea’s president, had earlier said that “if North Korea uses nuclear weapons, its regime will be brought to an end by an overwhelming response from the ROK-US alliance”.

In June this year, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reported that the world’s nuclear powers, and China in particular, increased investment in their arsenals for a third consecutive year in 2022.

While the total number of nuclear warheads held by Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States had fallen by about 1.6 percent to 12,512 over the previous year, SIPRI said the declining trend was on the cusp of a reversal.

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UN chief regrets Russia’s decision to end Black Sea grain deal

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow decided to suspend its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative…reports Asian Lite News

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday said he regretted Russia’s decision to withdraw from the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

“I deeply regret the decision by the Russian Federation to terminate the implementation of the Black Sea Initiative, including the withdrawal of Russian security guarantees for navigation in the northwestern part of the Black Sea,” Guterres said.

With the decision to terminate the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Russia also terminated its commitment to facilitate the unimpeded export of food, sunflower oil, and fertilizers from Ukrainian-controlled Black Sea ports, as expressed in the memorandum of understanding between Russia and the United Nations, he told a press encounter at the UN headquarters in New York.

The initiative has ensured the safe passage of over 32 million metric tons of food commodities from Ukrainian ports. The World Food Programme has shipped more than 725,000 tons to support humanitarian operations, relieving hunger in some of the hardest-hit corners of the world, including Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa and Yemen, noted Guterres.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative brokered by the United Nations and Türkiye — together with the memorandum of understanding between Russia and the world body — has been a lifeline for global food security and a beacon of hope in a troubled world. At a time when the production and availability of food are being disrupted by conflict, climate change, energy prices and more, these agreements have helped to reduce food prices by over 23 percent since March last year, he added.

“Ultimately, participation in these agreements is a choice. But struggling people everywhere and developing countries don’t have a choice. Hundreds of millions of people face hunger and consumers are confronting a global cost-of-living crisis. They will pay the price,” said Guterres, noting that there was already a jump in wheat prices immediately after the announcement of the Russian decision.

Earlier Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow decided to suspend its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

“Unfortunately, the part of these Black Sea agreements that concerns Russia has not been implemented so far, so its effect is terminated,” local media reported, citing Peskov. Russia had been complaining that its demands to improve its own grain and fertilizer exports have not been met.

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Guterres bats for continuation of Black Sea grain deal

The Black Sea Grain Initiative was signed separately by Russia and Ukraine in Istanbul with Turkey and the UN in July 2022…reports Asian Lite News

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged the parties to do their utmost to ensure the continuation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which allows the export of Ukrainian grain and other agricultural products from Black Sea ports.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson on Tuesday, Guterres also called on the parties to accelerate operations, pointing to the reduction in the movement of vessels coming in and out of Ukrainian sea ports, and a drop in the supply of essential foodstuff to global markets.

Food exports via the Black Sea have fallen from a peak of 4.2 million metric tonne in October 2022 to 1.3 million metric tonne in May, the lowest volume since the grain deal came into operation, according to the statement.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative was signed separately by Russia and Ukraine in Istanbul with Turkey and the UN in July 2022, Xinhua news agency reported.

The initiative, initially in effect for 120 days, was extended in mid-November 2022 for another 120 days till March 18, 2023. At that point, Russia only agreed to extend the deal for 60 days, till May 18, 2023. On May 17, Russia agreed to extend the deal for another 60 days.

As a parallel agreement, Russia and the UN signed a memorandum of understanding on the facilitation of Russian food and fertiliser exports.

The UN chief’s statement said that the UN is fully committed to supporting the implementation of both the initiative and the memorandum of understanding, so that exports of food and fertilisers, including ammonia, from Russia and Ukraine reach markets around the world safely and predictably.

“This is especially critical now as the new grain harvest begins in both Ukraine and the Russian Federation,” said the statement.

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Guterres to meet Zelensky in Kiev

Guterres and Zelensky will discuss the continuation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative in all its aspects…reports Asian Lite News

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev on Wednesday, a UN spokesman said.

“The secretary-general has just arrived in Poland on his way to Ukraine,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for Guterres, in a statement issued on Tuesday.

Guterres and Zelensky will discuss the continuation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative in all its aspects, Xinhua news agency reported, citing the statement.

On July 22, 2022, Russia and Ukraine separately signed a document in Istanbul with Turkey and the United Nations on grain and fertiliser exports from Ukraine and Russia to ensure supplies to global markets amid the Russia-Ukraine war.

The deal, due to expire on November 19, 2022, was extended for another 120 days. Guterres has repeatedly called for the deal’s further extension.

While in Kiev, Guterres will also talk with Zelensky about “other pertinent issues”, Dujarric said in the statement, noting that it is the UN chief’s third visit to Ukraine in the past year.

Guterres will be back to the United Nations headquarters in New York on Thursday, according to the statement.

Later at a noon press briefing Tuesday, Guterres’ deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said the UN chief “is currently in Ukraine”, making his way to Kiev.

There’s no visit to Moscow planned, Haq said, pointing out that prior to leaving New York, Guterres had a conversation with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin.

“And from the secretary-general’s standpoint, he’s willing to go wherever he’s needed and whenever it’s useful. But, of course, we’ll see how that develops,” he said.

A delegation from Russia is expected to be in Geneva next week for further discussions, said Haq, adding that “so those will be conducted at a high level there concerning the Black Sea Grain Initiative.”

“I think we are engaged in serious discussions and we’ll continue to do so,” he said. “And I think it should be clear to all participants the advantages, the very real advantages in continuing this initiative.”

Under the initiative, more than 20 million metric tons of foodstuffs have been safely reconnected to global supply chains on more than 700 ships, helping to bring down prices around the world, Guterres told a UN Security Council high-level meeting on Ukraine on February 24.

“I want to underscore the importance of all parties remaining engaged in this initiative, and reiterate our call for it to be extended beyond March 2023,” he then said.

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UN chief calls for all-out efforts to eliminate N-threat

In late August, the 10th Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons failed to result in the adoption of an outcome document…reports Asian Lite News

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for the use of every means to eliminate the nuclear threat.

Guterres made the appeal at a UN General Assembly high-level meeting to commemorate and promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, which falls on September 26.

“We come together on this international day to speak with one voice. To stand in defence of our world — and our future. And to reject the claim that nuclear disarmament is some impossible utopian dream,” he said on Monday.

He noted that the elimination of nuclear weapons would be the greatest gift “we could bestow on future generations”.

In late August, the 10th Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons failed to result in the adoption of an outcome document.

Expressing disappointment about the conference’s failure to reach a substantive outcome, Guterres vowed that “we will not give up”.

“I urge all states to use every avenue of dialogue, diplomacy and negotiation to ease tensions, reduce risk and eliminate the nuclear threat,” he said.

Guterres also called for a new vision for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

He highlighted the need to take into account the evolving nuclear order, including all types of nuclear weapons and their means of delivery, as well as the need to address the blurring lines between strategic and conventional weapons, and the nexus with new domains of cyber and outer space.

The UN chief urged General Assembly delegates to seize the opportunity and make new commitment to work toward a peaceful future.

“Without eliminating nuclear weapons, there can be no peace. There can be no trust. And there can be no sustainable future,” he added.

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Will UN chief succeed where others failed?

Before his trips to Moscow and Kiev, Guterres made a stop-over in Turkey, where he met President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the Ukraine issue….reports Asian Lite News

 UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres continues to push for a halt in hostilities in Ukraine even though a Russian UN envoy said a cease-fire is not a good option at the moment, said a UN spokesman.

“We continue to call for a cease-fire or some sort of pause. The Secretary-General did that, as you know, just last week. Clearly, that didn’t happen in time for (Orthodox) Easter,” said Farhan Haq, Deputy spokesman for Guterres.

“I don’t want to give too many details at this stage of the sort of proposals he will have. I think we’re coming at a fairly delicate moment. It’s important that he is able to talk clearly with the leadership on both sides and see what progress we can make,” he told a daily press briefing.

“Ultimately, the end goal is to have a halt to fighting and to have ways to improve the situation of the people in Ukraine, lessen the threat that they’re under, and provide humanitarian aid (to) them. So, those are the goals we’re trying, and there are certain ways that we’ll try to move those forward,” he said.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky when they met at the UN headquarters last year. (File Photo: UN)

Guterres was on his way to Moscow from Turkey. He will have a working meeting and lunch with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday, and will be received by President Vladimir Putin, Xinhua news agency reported.

The UN chief then will travel to Ukraine and have a working meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, and will be received by President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday.

Before his trips to Moscow and Kiev, Guterres made a stop-over in Turkey, where he met President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the Ukraine issue.

Haq said the Secretary-General is making the trips because he thinks there is an opportunity now.

UN calls for 4-day pause during Easter

“A lot of diplomacy is about timing, about finding out when is the right time to speak with a person, to travel to a place, to do certain things. And he is going in the anticipation that there is a real opportunity that is now availing itself, and we’ll see what we can make of it,” he said.

Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s first Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, said on Monday that now is not the time for a cease-fire.

“We don’t think that cease-fire is a good option right now. The only advantage it will present is that it will give Ukrainian forces a possibility to regroup and stage more provocations like the one in Bucha,” he told reporters.

“It is not up to me to decide, but I do not see any reason in this right now.”

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Guterres pleads for a 4-day Easter ceasefire in Ukraine

Many good-faith efforts by many parties to reach a cease-fire in Ukraine have failed…reports Asian Lite News

N Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has made a plea for a four-day Holy Week humanitarian pause in the war in Ukraine beginning on Holy Thursday and running through Easter Sunday, April 24, to allow for humanitarian corridors, warning that the destruction and human loss seen so far “could pale in comparison to the horror that lies ahead.”

“In five days, Ukrainians and Russians will mark Easter,” Guterres said.

“This holiday (is) a time for reflection on the meaning of suffering, sacrifice, death, and rebirth. But this year, Holy Week is being observed under the cloud of a war that represents the total negation of the Easter message.”

Speaking as Russian and Ukrainian troops engaged in a long-awaited battle in the east of Ukraine on Tuesday, Guterres said that “the terrible concentration of forces and firepower” makes this battle more violent and destructive,” and warned that the civilian loss the world has witnessed so far “could pale” in comparison with the horrors that lie ahead.

“This cannot be allowed to happen,” Guterres told reporters in New York. “Hundreds of thousands of lives hang in the balance.” 

Many good-faith efforts by many parties to reach a cease-fire in Ukraine have failed. 

Lamenting the failing efforts by many parties to reach a cease-fire in Ukraine, the UN chief said that the humanitarian pause is necessary to allow safe passage of all civilians fleeing the areas of confrontation, and the delivery of life-saving aid to the hardest-hit areas, such as Mariupol, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk.

He again called on Russians and Ukrainians to silence the guns and begin to forge a way toward peace and safety. He also urged “all champions of peace around the world” to join his Easter appeal.

Guterres added: “Save lives. Stop the bloodshed and destruction. Open a window for dialogue and peace and keep faith with the meaning and the message of Easter.” 

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UN Chief seeks end to Syria war

UN chief Antonio Guterres  says 11 years of “brutal fighting” in Syria must end…reports Asian Lite News

 UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a ceasefire in Syria in a statement marking 11 years of “brutal fighting” in the conflict-torn nation.

“We cannot fail the Syrian people. The conflict must cease. International humanitarian law must be respected,” said the UN chief.

“I call on all parties to meaningfully engage in the UN-facilitated political process and appeal for further support to scale up the humanitarian response. We must choose peace,” the secretary-general added.

The top UN official said that Syria’s 11 years of “brutal fighting” has come at an “unconscionable human cost,” subjecting millions there to human rights violations on a “massive and systematic scale.”

“The destruction that Syrians have endured is so extensive and deadly that it has few equals in modern history,” said the secretary-general.

He noted that the slow but systematic destruction of basic infrastructure around the country, since the civil war began in 2011 in the wake of the so-called “Arab Spring” of popular uprisings across the Middle East, has “deepened the economic crisis” and now, humanitarian needs are at their highest level since conflict began.

“We must not lose hope, we must act now. We must show the courage and determination to move beyond rhetorical commitments to peace and to do all that is necessary to reach a negotiated political solution in line with Security Council resolution 2254 (2015),” the UN chief said.

Syrian Fighters in Ukraine

Russia is recruiting Syrians for the war in Ukraine, who know how to fight in the urban areas of the city.

This was reported by the Wall Street Journal, citing four US officials. It is unknown exactly how many Syrian mercenaries were recruited, but according to the publication, some of them are already in Russia and are preparing to enter the conflict.

According to the publication, based in Deir ez-Zor, Syria, Russia offered volunteers from the country from $ 200 to $ 300 to travel to Ukraine, UNIAN reported.

Syrian militants have spent nearly a decade fighting in the urban areas, while Russian forces, mostly military, do not have this skill set, said WSJ expert Jennifer Cafarella, a researcher at the Institute for War Studies in Washington.

According to the chairman of the board of the Center for Defense Strategies Andriy Zagorodniuk, in less than 11 days of resistance, the Armed Forces managed to neutralise up to 46,000 Russian occupiers, including the killed, wounded and prisoners.

Soldiers Killed

At least 13 soldiers were killed when their bus was ambushed in the central province of Homs, a state media report.

 Officers were among the slain soldiers, whose bus was attacked in the desert region of the city of Palmyra in the countryside of Homs, Xinhua news agency quoted the report as saying.

 It added that 18 other soldiers were wounded by the “terrorist attack”, which was carried out with the use of various weapons.

 The state media report did not name the group or individual behind the attack, but similar ones have been carried out by remnants of the Islamic State (IS) terror group, which is still active in the desert region.

 Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights placed the death toll at 15.

 It added that thetoll is likely going to rise as most of the wounded are in critical condition.

 The attack is the latest in a series of targeting by the IS against the Syrian army in the desert area.

 In January, a similar attack by IS on a military bus near Palmyra killed five soldiers and wounded 20 others.

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