Amed groups in Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, and Libya have not fully adhered to a United Nations call to lay down their guns during the novel coronavirus pandemic, the world body’s chief Antonio Guterres said on Friday.
Speaking with reporters via a video link, Guterres said that his call for a global ceasefire had been well received around the world by Pope Francis and many others as part of efforts to tackle COVID-19 and the economic chaos it has unleashed.
But he noted that violence has “spiked” in Yemen and “escalated” in Libya, while Syria has witnessed ongoing tensions, even as the country has recorded some local COVID-19 cases that could prove too much for the country’s battered health system.
In Afghanistan, Guterres noted that fighting “increased” after his call for a ceasefire but that later the government and the Taliban launched long-awaited talks for ending decades of grueling conflict there.
“In many of the most critical situations, we have seen no let-up in fighting — and some conflicts have even intensified,” said Guterres, the UN secretary-general and a former Prime Minister of Portugal.
“We need robust diplomatic efforts to meet these challenges. To silence the guns, we must raise the voices for peace.”
The world body has deployed peace envoys to try and broker an end to conflicts in countries including Syria, Yemen, and Libya, while also providing humanitarian assistance to stop millions of civilians perishing from famine and disease.
Guterres warned that health systems in war-torn countries have been battered by years of fighting and the small number of health professionals who have stuck it out were often targeted by airstrikes and ground attacks.
“There is a chance for peace, but we are far from there,” said Guterres.
“The virus has shown how swiftly it can move across borders, devastate countries and upend lives. The worst is yet to come. And so, we need to do everything possible to find the peace and unity our world so desperately needs to battle COVID-19.”