China has cancelled a UN Security Council meeting scheduled for Thursday in coronavirus-stricken New York as it seeks to encourage "votes by writing" while the pandemic rages on, diplomatic sources said on Wednesday, 25 March.
The Security Council, currently chaired by China, has not met since 12 March due to the outbreak and is deeply divided over a proposed declaration on the crisis and holding "virtual" meetings to vote on resolutions.
Council votes are usually taken by a show of hands in the same room, allowing for last-minute negotiations between members.
‘Mixed Process’ to Be Worked Out?
Thursday's meeting was due to renew the mandate of UN experts responsible for sanctions imposed on North Korea and extend the peace mission in Somalia. The votes would be postponed, according to a diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has not shuttered the organisation's headquarters in New York, but the city itself is under a stay-at-home order issued by the state's governor. New York state is the epicentre of the pandemic in America, with more than 30,000 declared cases.
Many members have said that a “mixed process” – using videos to present their positions and sending statements by email ahead of a vote – was in the process of being finalised.
Russia, a veto-wielding permanent member, has so far refused to entertain the idea of virtual votes, and has demanded that the council meet physically if a vote is needed.
The council met for the first time in its history via video conference on Tuesday, 24 March, for informal talks on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Similar discussions on Libya, Syria and Afghanistan are scheduled for later on, diplomats told AFP, but the media will not be given access.
When asked why, Chinese spokesperson Han Xu said "the system is not accessible to media and the public as a limited number of people can be online at the same time".