| 25 February 2024, Sunday |

UN Chief Says He Cannot Deny Unvaccinated World Leaders From Entering General Assembly


UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Sputnik he under no circumstances can deny world leaders entry to the UN General Assembly Hall if they have no proof of vaccination against the COVID-19 disease.

On 16 September, the City of New York required all delegates coming to participate in the high-level event next week to show proof of vaccination in order to access the Hall. Following the order, Russian Representative Vassily Nebenzia called for an emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly to address what he called a “clearly discriminatory” measure.

“I also have said very clearly that there is no way I can tell the head of state coming to the UN that if not vaccinated they cannot enter,” Guterres said. “I [am not] the authority to tell a head of state that [they] cannot enter the UN if not vaccinated.”

Guterres appealed to every delegate coming to participate in the high-level week to get vaccinated when possible.

“I appeal [to] everybody to get vaccinated; it’s very important for their health and also for the communities to which they belong and for the General Assembly,” he stressed.

UN Chief Says He Expects to Meet With Biden at UNGA on Monday

Guterres told Sputnik he expects to meet with US President Joe Biden on Monday on the margins of the UN General Assembly high-level week.

“I think I will meet President Biden on Monday,” Guterres said.

The White House earlier confirmed that Biden will travel to New York on 21 September to lead the US delegation at the upcoming event.

Meeting With Lavrov on Sidelines of UNGA Already Scheduled

Guterres also said his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is already scheduled to take place on the sidelines of the upcoming General Assembly high-level week.

“I will meet Foreign Minister Lavrov in one of the days of the week, I cannot say now exactly, but it’s already in my program,” Guterres said. The UN chief also said he plans to meet all heads of state and government and many foreign ministers attending the General Assembly in-person this year.

“I will probably not be able to meet all because of the time, but my intention is to meet, if possible, all leaders of foreign affairs [who are] coming,” Guterres added.

Essential to Avoid Humanitarian Catastrophe in Afghanistan

Antonio Guterres told Sputnik it was essential to prevent a catastrophic humanitarian situation from unfolding in Afghanistan following the country’s takeover by the Taliban*.

“It’s essential, at the present moment, to avoid a catastrophic humanitarian situation in the country,” Guterres said.

On Monday, Guterres hosted an international pledging conference in Geneva, during which international donors mobilised some $1.2 billion to respond to the crisis in Afghanistan, exceeding UN’s previous appeal for $606 million for this year.

UN Chief: ‘Absolutely Essential’ to Create Mechanisms to Inject Cash Into Afghan Economy

Guterres also noted it was critical to create mechanisms to inject cash into Afghanistan’s economy to prevent it from collapsing and causing a massive outflow of refugees that could destabilise the entire region.

“It is absolutely essential to create mechanisms to inject some cash within the Afghan economy to prevent the collapse of the Afghan economy that could cause tremendous suffering for the Afghan people and could trigger massive outflow that, of course, soon be a destabilizing factor for the countries of the region,” Guterres said.

Waivers for Some Sanctions Against Taliban Necessary

Еhe United Nations needs to create conditions to allow some sanctions waivers for the Taliban for the effective distribution of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, Guterres stressed.

“I’ve been appealing for a number of waivers in the sanctions that allow for operational aspects to be possible… It will be necessary for practical reasons to make some waivers in some of the sanctions in order to allow for the contexts that are needed and for the humanitarian aid to be effectively distributed,” Guterres said.

The UN chief also said it was up to the Security Council to consider whether a UN roadmap needs to be developed in order to waive some of the existing sanctions.

“I think that this is a matter the Security Council needs to be considering in the future,” the UN chief stated.

Strategic Interests of Russia, US on Syria Overlap

Guterres also told Sputnik he believed the strategic interests of Washington and Moscow on Syria overlap and, hopefully, it was possible to enhance dialogue between the two counties to reach a political solution in the Arab Republic.

“The strategic interests of the United States and Russia about Syria are the same. So, I hope that there will be an enhanced dialogue between the two countries and a stronger cooperation to allow us to move for a political solution of the Syrian crisis,” Guterres said.

New Code of Conduct Needed to Regulate Use of Social Media by States

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres noted in an interview with Sputnik he believed it was the time to develop a new code of conduct to regulate the use of social media by different countries.

“We know how social media today exists and works and we know how difficult it is sometimes to detect who’s doing what in this complex area,” Guterres said. “I think we need a new code of conduct in relation to the use of social media in different aspects by states, but also by the main operators that are responsible for what’s happening. And I hope that it will be possible to have an understanding in relation to this by different countries, allowing for some norms to be put in place.”

UN Chief Guterres Says His Next Car Will Be Electric

“We don’t need big cars,” Guterres shared. “My next car will be an electric car. For the moment, I have a car, a traditional one, that’s quite old, but it’s small. We don’t need big cars.”

Guterres went on saying that the governments should take measures that help citizens make the right choices.

“For instance, if you shift taxation from income to carbon, that will influence the behavior of consumers. If you end subsidies to fossil fuels and use that money to promote social security, universal health coverage or whatever, that again improves the behavior of people,” he said.

Guterres stressed that each one person has a responsibility to reduce their carbon footprint.

“It has been difficult for most of us to understand that we also need to change a few things in our lives. And it’s possible. Some of the changes are relatively simple,” he went on to say. “We can have a healthy diet that also contributes to climate action and that is savory that we like.”

Additionally, efforts should be made to hold meetings online as much as possible and reduce traveling “to what is absolutely essential.”

“So there are many things that we can do in our life in the way we behave, in the way we relate with the others, in which we can all contribute to climate action,” the UN chief said, adding that “we are not yet there.”

Guterres noted that if the present commitments that were made — the so-called Nationally Determined Contributions — would be implemented at current pace, there will be a temperature rise in the end of the century of 2.7 degrees, “which means a catastrophic situation for the world.”

“So, a lot must be done between now and the COP to increase the financial support of developed countries to developing countries, in which we are far from what was promised in Paris, and it’s essential to be done; to increase the amount of this climate finance at the disposal of developing countries for adaptation, for building resilience of their communities, their infrastructure, because they are already suffering the dramatic impacts of climate, and also to ask those countries that still foresee an increase in emissions, especially, some emerging economies, to make an extra mile of effort in order for us to be able globally to reduce emissions in the next decade by 45% in relation to 2010 in 2030, and to reach carbon neutrality in the middle of the century,” Guterres concluded.

Guterres at the opening of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly on Tuesday called on the global community to accelerate response to the COVID-19 pandemic and meet targets on climate.

The UN chief also stressed it was time to end wars on each other and commit to peace fighting the common enemy – the pandemic.

The new session of the UN General Assembly starts on 21 September. The high-level week of the assembly will be held 21-27 September.

US President Joe Biden plans to virtually convene the Global COVID-19 Summit: Ending the Pandemic and Building Back Better on the margins of the UN General Assembly on 22 September.

Between 31 October and 12 November, the United Nations will convene the Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland.

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