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U.N. Security Council Demands Cease-Fire In Conflict Areas, Due To COVID-19

On Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council approved a 90-day cease-fire in global conflict zones due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Security Council is seen here in February at U.N. headquarters in New York City.
On Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council approved a 90-day cease-fire in global conflict zones due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Security Council is seen here in February at U.N. headquarters in New York City.

The United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday that demands an "immediate cessation of hostilities" in conflict zones around the world, due to the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic. It is the first resolution related to the coronavirus that the council has passed.

The text calls for "all parties to armed conflicts to engage immediately in a durable humanitarian pause for at least 90 consecutive days" to allow for delivery of humanitarian assistance and medical evacuations.

The resolution, which was introduced by France and Tunisia, does not apply to military operations against ISIS and al-Qaida. It will pertain to conflicts including those in Syria, Yemen, Libya, South Sudan and Congo, The Associated Press reports.

The Security Council has struggled for months to pass a resolution related to COVID-19, due largely to tussling between the United States and China over a reference to the World Health Organization, which is an agency of the U.N.

In April, President Trump suspended U.S. funding of the World Health Organization, and he announced in May that the U.S. would withdraw its membership.

The State Department pushed for any references to the organization to be removed from the ceasefire resolution. The U.S. wanted the resolution instead to speak of "transparency." China, meanwhile, wanted to specifically mention the WHO.

The resolution that passed Wednesday is apparently a compromise: It makes no reference to either the WHO or transparency.

In an interview last month with NPR, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres lamented the Security Council's gridlock in a time of global crisis.

"We see that the very dysfunctional relationship that exists today between the United States-China, United States-Russia, makes it practically impossible for the Security Council to take any meaningful decision that would be fundamental" to fight COVID-19 effectively, Guterres said.

Unlike resolutions of the U.N. General Assembly, resolutions of the Security Council are legally binding.

"The point is that we have multilateralism, but the multilateralism we have has no teeth," Guterres said. "We need mechanisms of cooperation, with mechanisms of governance, that simply do not exist. And even where we have in the multilateral system some teeth, as is the case of Security Council, it has shown very little appetite to bite."

NPR Diplomacy Correspondent Michele Kelemen contributed to this report.

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