G20 leaders emphasize need for coordinated response to pandemic

G20 leaders emphasize need for coordinated response to pandemic
Leaders of the world’s biggest economies attend the virtual G20 Summit in Riyadh on Saturday. SPA the coViD-19 pandemic. (SPA)
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Updated 22 November 2020

G20 leaders emphasize need for coordinated response to pandemic

G20 leaders emphasize need for coordinated response to pandemic
  • Together people can protect their lives and livelihoods while shaping a better world: King Salman
  • It is time to come together with the idea of “common good” and providing primary healthcare access to all: Macron

RIYADH: The G20 heads of state on Saturday emphasized the need for a continued coordinated response to the coronavirus pandemic, especially to support the most vulnerable segments of society, as well as the need to increase spending on research and vaccines.

“From the onset of the pandemic and in an attempt to jump-start the global response, we met in an extraordinary summit last March where we all took swift and collective actions to counter this crisis. We continue to do so,” said King Salman, addressing the meeting.

“The pandemic has demonstrated that international cooperation is the optimal way to overcome crises. We must focus on the most vulnerable segments. We must provide support for all countries of the world, for we will not be safe until everyone is safe,” he added.

“In April, the Kingdom joined forces with international organizations and global leaders to launch the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator. We co-led the Global Coronavirus Pledging Event to meet the global shortage in developing and distributing vaccines and diagnostic tools, where the Kingdom contributed $500 million towards that end.”

The king said the pandemic is a true test for global health systems, so “through the G20 presidency, we utilized a number of vital initiatives to close the pandemic preparedness and response gaps.”

He added: “During our presidency, with the support of the G20 members, we proposed the Access to Pandemic Tools (APT) initiative, which aims at ensuring a focus on sustainable preparedness and response to counter any future pandemic. We look forward to furthering this discussion and implementation during the Italian presidency next year.”

Together, King Salman said, people can protect their lives and livelihoods while shaping a better world.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the G20 “has taken unprecedented measures, which allowed us to reach important milestones. The ACT Accelerator is one of those milestones.”

Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez said: “In Argentina, we have worked on a comprehensive approach, putting the protection of people’s lives first.”

He added that cooperation and solidarity are the two key elements to fighting the pandemic. “This is not only a responsibility of governments but every one of us, members of the international community, to defeat the pandemic,” said Fernandez.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the only effective response to the pandemic is a coordinated global one based on solidarity.

“We can reasonably expect that before the end of the year a vaccine will be available, which is totally unprecedented,” he added.

“But an even more difficult fight must be fought — that of universal access to health technologies against COVID-19.”

Macron said it is time to come together with the idea of “common good” and providing primary healthcare access to all.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “A global challenge, which is what the pandemic undoubtedly is, can only be overcome with a global effort. The G20 has a crucial responsibility in this area. For example, we have launched the ACT Accelerator and its COVAX facility. This unique global platform serves to promote the development, production and distribution of medicines, diagnostics and vaccines.”

“Each country is striving to find its own responses to the pandemic, as well as to contribute to the necessary worldwide response … (This) can only be overcome with a global effort,” said Merkel, adding that the G20 has a crucial responsibility in this regard.

She said in order to halt the pandemic, every country needs to have access to, and be able to afford, a vaccine.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said: “I would like to express my gratitude to King Salman for granting me the time to introduce Korea’s experience in responding to COVID-19. At the outset of the pandemic, Korea had the second-highest COVID-19 infections in the world, but could overcome the crisis thanks to our people, who readily cooperated with infectious disease control measures.”

He added that his country conceived the idea of drive-through and walk-through screening stations, which enabled massive testing in a short period of time.

“From a ‘Corona Map’ that spots the location of infection, to self-quarantine and epidemiological investigation apps, various mobile apps helped in fighting the pandemic,” he said.

His country will continue to beef up cooperation with the International Vaccine Institute, headquartered in Seoul, and scale up humanitarian assistance, he said.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said inclusive economic recovery and collective efforts would be of great help to combat future epidemics.

To help African countries rebuild their economies, “the African Union has proposed several measures, including debt relief in the form of interest payment waivers and deferred payments to be prepared for the future,” he added. “We must invest in funding and research.”

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, board chair of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, said: “Only through adequate financing for a global exit strategy like the ACT Accelerator can economic vitality be restored at home and catastrophe in the poorest countries be averted.”

Iran still a destabilizing influence in Middle East, Saudi Arabia committed to regional peace: Prince Faisal

Updated 05 December 2020

Iran still a destabilizing influence in Middle East, Saudi Arabia committed to regional peace: Prince Faisal

Iran still a destabilizing influence in Middle East, Saudi Arabia committed to regional peace: Prince Faisal
  • ‘Region has been unstable for some time and main source is Iran,’ FM
  • Faisal bin Farhan says Kingdom has always been in favor, supports US-Iran dialogue

RIYADH: Iran continues to fund terrorist militias to incite violence in the region, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Friday.
“The region has been unstable for some time and the main source of that instability is Iran and Iran’s continuing activity in the region and its continuing focus on exporting its revolution on making sure that it continues to be able to manipulate governments in various countries,” said Prince Faisal bin Farhan.
Speaking at the Mediterranean Dialogues Forum held in Rome, the Saudi minister said Iranian interference can be seen from Lebanon to Syria, from Yemen to Iraq, where Tehrain continues to fund militias and “use violence to try and further their political agendas, including attacking diplomatic missions.”
Prince Faisal also said that “we see Iran having a hand in terrorist plots throughout Europe and other places.”
He also said that the Kingdom does not support assassinations, adding that they are “not part of our policy,” referring to the recent killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an Iranian scientist linked to Tehran’s nuclear program, who died in hospital after he was gunned down in his car near the Iranian capital.
The foreign minister said the Kingdom supports dialogue between the US and Iran and has always been in favor of that.
“The Trump administration was open to dialogue with Iran, and it was Iran that closed the door to that dialogue,” he said, adding “we will be open to real dialogue in the future that addresses significant issues of concern,” including nuclear non-proliferation, use of ballistic missiles and “most importantly its destabilizing activities.”
He also said the without addressing Iran’s malign role, its funding of armed groups and terrorist organizations in the region and its “attempts to impose its will by force on other states, we are not going to have progress.”
On Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the US President-elect Joe Biden, Prince Faisal said: “I think we will have a positive engagement, there will not always be a full alignment and there will be areas of disagreement, this has always been the case and it’s the case between any two partners.
“But through discussion, dialogue and engagement we will find common ground and work together because in the end we are both committed to the same things,” he said, adding that these include commitment to a secure and stable region, a global community that works together toward multilateralism and respect for national sovereignty.
He said the Biden administration “will find that we have taken a very proactive, positive approach to Yemen by announcing a unilateral cease-fire sometime ago, we have engaged with them through the UN representative very strongly to try and facilitate a permanent declaration of cease-fire from all parties.”
However, he said that the Iran-backed Houthi militia have been reluctant to sign and have put “unacceptable demands which the government of Yemen has not been able to accept.”
The internationally recognized government in Yemen has been battling the Houthis since 2014 in what the United Nations says is one of the biggest humanitarian crises, with over 24 million people – around 80 percent of the population — in need of assistance.
“We are fully committed in Yemen to a political resolution to the conflict and we will work happily and very hard with the incoming (Biden) administration to make that happen,” he said.
While, on the issue of peace in the Middle East, the Saudi foreign minister said that the Kingdom supports a just peace agreement that gives the Palestinians an independent state.
Asked about the Abraham accords, which was an agreement signed by the UAE and Bahrain officially establishing diplomatic relations, the Saudi minister said that they were important steps toward a potential stable region.
“That did help take annexation off the table and they set the groundwork for potential engagement and we can see them as steps in the right direction, provided that we can now use those agreements as well, as a stepping stone to renew engagement between the Palestinians and Israelis, and work toward settling back a dispute that is fair and equitable to the Palestinians and delivers a sovereign state,” he said.
Addressing domestic issues, Prince Faisal referred to many reforms, including women’s rights and the youth.
“Youth and women empowerment are a key focus of Vision 2030 and giving them access to not just the labor market, which we have seen great success in women’s participation in the private sector that has increased by something like 300% over the last five years, and other very significant developments,” he said.
“We continue to work through our laws and legislations to ensure that we have a system that is comparable to any in the world and that is a key focus, because in order for us to empower our youth, they need to have a legal framework environment where they can act in a way that really opens up their potential,” he added.
Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 aims to transform the Kingdom into an economic and tourist hub, diversify investment opportunities and develop various public and private sectors in an effort to reduce its dependency on oil.
“That reform program remains on track and despite COVID-19 stifling it, we have refocused our attention and energy on the need to move that agenda forward and that includes opening up various sectors of the economy, whether it’s culture, entertainment, sports — all these areas that contribute to a diverse society and economy.”