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A Russian-drafted U.N. General Assembly resolution on the coronavirus that took a number of swipes at the U.S. was shot down by the U.S. and its allies -- a significant defeat for Moscow as members chose instead to pass a more neutral resolution urging action on the virus.
The Russian resolution was broadly a “declaration on solidarity of the United Nations in the face of the challenges posed by COVID-19.” It called for a “science-based approach” and gave its backing to the World Health Organization (WHO).
However, it also criticized the U.S. approach in other matters, such as sanctions and tariffs -- even though it does not mention the U.S. specifically.
The resolution would have called on all countries to "refrain from raising trade barriers, imposing new export restrictions, or implementing protectionist and discriminatory measures inconsistent with the WTO [World Trade Organization] rules as well as not to apply any unilateral coercive measures undertaken without the mandate of the Security Council."
President Trump has imposed tariffs on countries such as China, and has imposed sanctions unilaterally on China, Russia, Iran and Venezuela. Russia has opposed all of those sanctions, as well as the tariffs.
Such a resolution would normally get enough votes to pass at the General Assembly, but because of the virus new voting rules are in place. The new rules trigger the “silence procedure” where members have 72 hours to object -- if one does, the document fails.
The Russian resolution was scheduled to pass late Thursday, but the U.S., U.K., the European Union, Georgia and Ukraine all objected.
“Some countries are taking advantage of COVID to drive their own national agenda on sanctions, which is not befitting of the seriousness of the situation nor the importance of the joint approach on this terrible virus,” a spokesperson for the U.K. mission said before the vote.
Instead, countries rallied behind a more neutral resolution put forward by Singapore and other countries that calls on “the United Nations system under the leadership of the United Nations Secretary-General to work with all relevant actors in order to mobilize a coordinated global response to the pandemic and its adverse social, economic and financial impact on all societies.”
In a statement, the U.S. mission praised what it called an “inclusive, balanced and constructive text.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic is a global challenge. Addressing it requires global action, international solidarity, and unity of purpose. We hope this resolution will rally the international community to take tangible steps to counter the virus and its spread,” the statement said.
However, the text was not a complete win for the U.S., as neither it nor the Russian document included any reference to the Chinese origins of the virus. That is something the U.S. has called for both in the U.N. Security Council and with G-7 leaders, as it fights an ongoing battle with China about who is responsible for the spread of the virus.
“All members of the Security Council must recognize the threat that China’s mishandling of the outbreak poses to international peace and security,” a State Department official told Fox News last week. “The People’s Republic of China has been more interested in saving face than saving lives.”
The Chinese mission responded by accusing the U.S. of “groundless accusations and malicious fabrication.”