Friday 19 January 2018

Favourite for UN top job pledges to prioritise peace deals

Antonio Guterres
Antonio Guterres

Edith M Lederer in Geneva

Portugal’s former prime minister Antonio Guterres, who is virtually certain to be the next UN secretary-general, says he wants to be “an honest broker, a bridge-builder and someone who tries to create conditions for consensus”.

The veteran politician and diplomat, who won unanimous backing from the UN Security Council on Wednesday, said that if he got the job his aim would be to work with all countries to help solve the myriad problems on the global agenda.

The Security Council was scheduled to meet behind closed doors yesterday morning for a formal vote on Guterres’ candidacy.

Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin, the current council president, expressed hope that the council will recommend Guterres by “acclamation” to the 193-member General Assembly, which must approve a successor to Ban Ki-moon, whose second five-year term ends on December 31.

Guterres topped all six informal polls in the council after receiving high marks from almost every diplomat for his performance in the first question-and-answer sessions for candidates in the General Assembly. He was the only candidate of the 10 in the race to receive no “discourage” votes in Wednesday’s poll, which was the first to use coloured ballots to distinguish the votes of the five veto-wielding permanent members — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.

The result disappointed campaigners for a woman or East European to be the world’s top diplomat for the first time.

Guterres will almost certainly select a woman as deputy secretary-general and he said in the interview that one of the things that was “crucial” at the male-dominated United Nations was “to have gender parity”.

He said that his 10 years as the UN high commissioner for refugees, which ended in December, were “excellent preparation” for a secretary-general who needs to be an honest broker.

“I think we are living in a world where we see a multiplication of new conflicts, and you see an enormous difficulty in solving the conflicts,” Guterres said.

What’s needed, he said, is a new “diplomacy for peace” which requires discreet diplomatic contacts and shuttling among key players in conflicts and disputes.

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