Covid-19: Guterres warns terrorists may take advantage of pandemic

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

United Nations, (Asian independent) UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned on Friday that terrorists could be taking advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic devastating large areas of the world.

“Terrorist or extremist groups may take profit from the uncertainty created by the spread of the pandemic,” he said at a virtual news conference.

Outlining the various threats to world from the pandemic beyond the health aspects, he said the world “must mobilise every ounce of energy to defeat it”.

“We know the pandemic is having profound social, economic and political consequences, including relating to international peace and security,” Guterres said, listing postponement of elections or limitations on voting, movement restrictions and spiralling unemployment “that could contribute to rising discontent and political tensions”.

Reiterating his call for a global ceasefire to concentrate on fighting the epidemic, he said the “appeal is resonating across the world.”

Besides 70 countries, those endorsing his call include “non-state actors”, he said.

“Non-state actors” is a euphemism for terrorists and militias.

But he also said: “In many of the most critical situations, we have seen no let-up in fighting – and some conflicts have even intensified.”

He gave the example of Afghanistan, where fighting increased.

But a 21-member team, which includes five women, has been formed for direct negotiations with the Taliban, he said.

The Afghan government and the Taliban have also established technical contacts for a prisoner release, he added.

“I believe the time has come for the government and the Taliban to cease hostilities as COVID-19 looms over the country. I pledge my full support,” he said.

Among areas where the ceasefire is holding is the Idlib region of Syria where a temporary truce was negotiated by Turkey and Russia.