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Biden, UN chief say ‘strengthened partnership’ needed on coronavirus, climate change

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US President-elect Joe Biden spoke with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday, Biden’s transition team said, discussing the need for a “strengthened partnership” to combat COVID-19 pandemic and climate change – two areas where President Donald Trump shunned a multilateral approach.

Trump has referred to climate change as a “hoax” and in 2017 pulled the United States out of a global accord to tackle climate change – a decision which took effect on November 4. Biden has pledged to rejoin the deal, which was agreed in 2015.

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Trump also cut funding to the World Health Organization and also announced plans for the United States to withdraw from the global body – a decision that would have taken effect in July next year. Trump has accused the WHO of becoming a puppet of China amid the coronavirus pandemic. Biden has said he will rescind Trump’s decision.

Biden and Guterres also discussed “addressing humanitarian need; advancing sustainable development; upholding peace and security and resolving conflicts; and promoting democracy and human rights,” Biden’s transition team said in a statement.

Biden expressed deep concern to Guterres about the escalating violence in Ethiopia and the risk posed to civilians Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed lauded his troops on Monday for ousting a northern movement, but the leader of Tigrayan forces said they were still resisting amid fears of a protracted guerrilla conflict.

The nearly month-long war has killed hundreds and possibly thousands of people, sent refugees into Sudan, enmeshed Eritrea, and stirred rivalries among Ethiopia’s myriad ethnic groups.

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Guterres spoke with Abiy on Sunday, said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, calling for a full respect of human rights and humanitarian aid access.

“The Secretary General also said that Ethiopia needed a true reconciliation, without discrimination ... where every community should feel respected and be part of Ethiopia,” Dujarric told reporters on Monday.

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