UN could meet in-person on pandemic before year's end

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi (R) and United Nations General Assembly President-elect Volkan Bozkir (L) speaks during a joint press conference in Islamabad on August 10, 2020. (Photo: AFP)
  • Agence France-Presse
  • September 16, 2020 5:09 AM

United Nations, United States | United Nations officials anticipate an in-person General Assembly meeting in New York to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic before the end of the year, the body's president Volkan Bozkir said Tuesday.

The special session could be as soon as the first week of November, the former Turkish minister said during a press conference.

But several diplomats have said their countries are hesitant to meet so soon -- especially in the United States, where the virus that causes the disease continues to spread widely.

Negotiations were underway to push the date to the first week of December, according to those same diplomats.

Bozkir is keen to start in-person UN meetings -- which have taken place via video conference since March -- as soon as possible, saying such a summit should have happened "in June."

"Political timing is important," he said.

"As long as the health conditions allow, I intend to continue physical meetings of the General Assembly, taking the necessary mitigation measures to protect the health and safety of delegates and UN staff," Bozkir said.

"In our business of diplomacy, there is no substitute to meeting counterparts face-to-face, to build long-term understanding of each others' positions and forge compromise," he added.

According to Bozkir, a dozen heads of state -- including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- had planned to come speak at the UN in person next week.

But US quarantine rules "made it impossible for any leader to come and physically be present in the General Assembly," Bozkir said.

He said he did not know whether US President Donald Trump -- who had said he wanted to speak in-person at the body's annual gathering  -- would make an appearance or not.

© Agence France-Presse

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