Saudi king urges global unity at G20 summit

Saudi King Salman chaired the session, which was attended by US President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin among other G20 leaders.
Sunday 29/03/2020
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is shown in Riyadh during the emergency G20 videoconference convened to discuss a response to the coronavirus outbreak, March 26. (AFP)
Global concerns. Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is shown in Riyadh during the emergency G20 videoconference convened to discuss a response to the coronavirus outbreak, March 26. (AFP)

LONDON - In an extraordinary G20 virtual summit, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud urged world leaders to coordinate financing of research and development towards a coronavirus vaccine, secure the global economy and assist underdeveloped countries in fighting the pandemic, which has killed more than 8,000 people.

“This human crisis requires a global response,” King Salman said March 26. “The world counts on us to come together and cooperate to face this challenge.

“We must have an effective and coordinated response to this pandemic and restore confidence in the global economy.”

“On the trade front, the G20 must send a strong signal to restore confidence in the global economy by resuming, as soon as possible, the normal flow of goods and services, especially vital medical supplies,” he added.

“It is our responsibility to extend a helping hand to developing countries and (the) least developed countries to enable them to build their capacities and improve their infrastructure to overcome this crisis and its repercussions.”

Saudi Arabia holds the rotating G20 presidency, which led King Salman to convene a 2-hour session via videoconference. Other participants included US President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Combating this pandemic calls for a transparent, robust, coordinated, large-scale and science-based global response in the spirit of solidarity,” a statement issued by G20 leaders said. “We are strongly committed to presenting a united front against this common threat.”

With coronavirus infections exceeding 500,000 worldwide, coupled with the economic downturn related to it, the emergency meeting came during a time of great uncertainty, with financial analysts predicting a global economic recession in the near future.

In the Gulf Cooperation Council, energy-dependent countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have introduced economic measures to cushion their economies but most countries are not in a position to do so.

G20 countries pledged to inject $5 trillion into the global economy in “targeted fiscal policy” and create plans to address the economic effects of the pandemic.

The G20 communique said the group would “use all available policy tools to minimise the economic and social damage from the pandemic, restore global growth, maintain market stability and strengthen resilience.”

The G20 leaders pledged to support the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) efforts against the coronavirus outbreak, including “the protection of front-line health workers, delivery of medical supplies, especially diagnostic tools, treatments, medicines and vaccines.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who participated in the videoconference, welcomed G20 leaders' “commitment to do whatever it takes to overcome the pandemic” to protect lives and livelihoods.

“Many of your countries have imposed drastic social and economic restrictions, shutting schools and businesses and asking people to stay at home. These measures will take some of the heat out of the epidemic but they will not extinguish it,” Tedros said.

“COVID-19 is taking so much from us but it is also giving us something: The opportunity to come together as one against a common threat and to build a common future.”

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud echoed King Salman’s sentiment of global unity. “With a message of solidarity announced from Riyadh to the whole world: We must work together to prevail over this pandemic,” Prince Faisal posted on Twitter.

EU President Charles Michel stressed the importance of the summit. “We need a global response to this global crisis. Thank you @KingSalman for organising the #G20VirtualSummit,” he said on Twitter.

Besides the G20 nations, many countries hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak participated as observers, including the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Switzerland, Spain and Singapore. The United Nations and other international bodies were also involved.

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