COVID-19 crisis dominates G20 summit in Saudi Arabia, first for an Arab nation

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G20 leaders appeared in multiple windows on a flickering screen.

Riyadh:

The Saudi King Salman opened the G20 summit on Saturday as the first for an Arab nation. The virtual forum was dominated by efforts to tackle the coronavirus crisis and the worst global recession in decades.

G20 leaders, including US President Donald Trump, who refuses to allow a bitter election, appeared in multiple windows on a flickering screen in a high-stakes webinar amid the raging pandemic.

Heads of State and Government gather online for the two-day “meeting” as international efforts to large-scale coronavirus vaccine adoption mount after a breakthrough in studies and G20 countries are increasingly urged to resolve a $ 4.5 billion funding bottleneck Balance US dollars.

“While we are optimistic about the progress made in developing vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostic tools for Covid-19, we must work to create the conditions for affordable and equitable access to these tools for all,” said King Salman, Host of the summit.

“We have a duty to face the challenge together during this summit and to send a strong message of hope and reassurance to our people by adopting measures to contain this crisis,” he told world leaders in the opening speeches.

When the landmark event started, there were some early quirks when someone told the king that “the whole world is watching” before the event started, Chinese President Xi Jinping apparently had to seek technical assistance, and French President Emmanuel Macron was chatting with an aide off camera.

As Saudi hopes for a big coming-out parade are dashed due to the pandemic, the event is reduced to short online sessions that observers refer to as “digital diplomacy”.

Despite having to give up much of the usual summit meetings, Saudi Arabia started the meeting with an aerial acrobatics display over Riyadh.

And denied the opportunity to take the traditional “family photo”, a montage of G20 leaders was projected onto the ruins of the historic city of Diriyah during a gala event on Friday.

Along with Xi, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin are among the leaders who are expected to speak at the summit, with climate change being one of the top issues on the agenda.

Trump is also attending, but it is unclear whether the US president, who continues to oppose his electoral defeat, will deliver a speech. Many G20 leaders have already congratulated his rival, President-elect Joe Biden.

“Bolder measures”

The G20 has contributed more than $ 21 billion to fight the pandemic that infected 56 million people and killed 1.3 million people worldwide, and injected $ 11 trillion to “protect the virus-ridden global economy.” “.

However, the group’s heads of state and government are under increasing pressure to avoid possible loan defaults in developing countries.

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Last week finance ministers declared a “common framework” for an expanded debt rescheduling plan for virus-hit countries, but activists say the measure is insufficient.

Ministers had extended a debt suspension initiative for developing countries until next June, but UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has pushed for a commitment to extend it until the end of 2021.

International Monetary Fund executive director Kristalina Georgieva has warned that the global economy is facing a difficult path from the Covid-19 downturn, although vaccines are now in sight.

The G20 countries must help to close the funding gap of 4.5 billion US dollars that the so-called ACT Accelerator, the Norwegian Prime Minister, the South African President, the heads of the European Union and the World Health Organization in a joint letter to the Group have requested.

The program promotes fair distribution of Covid-19 vaccines to help contain the pandemic.

“Serious Abuse”

Saudi Arabia’s human rights record has dwarfed the gathering as activists and families of detained activists make vigorous efforts to highlight the issue.

Investment Minister Khalid al-Falih was asked at a press conference whether Saudi Arabia needs to try a different approach to overcome negative headlines, including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the detention of critics on persistent crackdown.

In a country where executives rarely ask such questions, the moderator asked the journalist to move the question elsewhere, but Falih insisted on answering it.

“Investors are not journalists, investors are looking for countries where they can trust an effective government with proper economic decisions,” he said.

Some Western officials have indicated that human rights will not be brought up at the summit and say they prefer to use bilateral forums to discuss the issue with Riyadh.

“Rather than expressing concern about the grave abuses in Saudi Arabia, the G20 is stepping up the Saudi government’s well-funded publicity efforts to portray the country as ‘reforming’ despite a sharp rise in repression,” said Michael Page of Human Rights Watch.

(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and posted from a syndicated feed.)

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