In his opening speech in an almost empty main assembly hall in New York, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warns against a new cold war between the United States and China.
– We are going in a very dangerous direction. Our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies divide the globe into a major rupture, he says.
He also points out that the world has been hit by a historic health crisis, the worst economic crisis since the Depression of the 1930s and threats to human rights, and he calls for global solidarity in connection with the pandemic, including the development of vaccines.
Long list of speakers
The first two speakers are Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and US President Donald Trump. The two represent the two countries in the world that have registered the most people infected with the coronavirus.
In his speech, Trump reaches out to China. He calls the virus the “China virus”, which he has done a number of times before and received criticism for.
The US president promises to distribute a vaccine, fight the virus, end the pandemic. He further says that the world will enter a new era with unique progress, cooperation and peace.
“The nation that unleashed this plague, China, must be held accountable,” Trump said, noting that “at the beginning of the pandemic, China shut down domestic travel while aircraft were allowed to take off and bring the infection to the rest of the world.”
Trump accuses not only China, but also the World Health Organization, of spreading false information about how the virus spreads.
At the time of writing, the United States, which is worst affected in the world, has over 6,859,000 registered cases of infection and over 199,000 deaths related to the virus.
Conflict between the United States and Iran
Also on the virtual rostrum are Xi Jinping from China, where the pandemic started, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Russia has marked itself with the rapid development of a possible vaccine against the virus.
After the formal opening of the UN high-level meeting on Monday, where the UN’s 75th anniversary was marked, the long list of speakers began on Tuesday.
The speeches are not a dialogue, but a series of statements. Nevertheless, one of this year’s conflicts will be the United States’ unilateral reintroduction of UN sanctions against Iran, despite the fact that the country withdrew from the nuclear agreement and according to the others in the agreement thus has no right to reintroduce the sanctions.
Iran is among those speaking on the first day, while Prime Minister Erna Solberg will have to wait until Saturday.
A large number of heads of state and head of government speak at this year’s virtual meeting instead of sending their foreign ministers or diplomats.
It’s good, “but the idea of them sitting at home with a bucket of popcorn and watching each other’s speeches is a bit comical,” said Richard Gowan, who oversees the UN for Crisis Group, a think tank in Brussels.