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G20 Virtual Summit: Saudi king urges effective response to corona virus crisis

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Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud on Thursday urged G20 leaders to take “effective and coordinated” action to fight the global health crisis set off by the coronavirus pandemic. He urged leaders attending the summit to do their best to assist all developing nations.

Leaders of the G20 convened the Extraordinary Virtual Summit on Thursday evening even as wealthy countries including the United States unveiled huge economic stimulus packages.

Till date, there has been no collective action plan from the G20, and the group has been criticized for its slow response.

In his opening remarks as G20 leaders began an emergency online summit in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the king detailed the destruction and damage the disease had caused on the global economy, financial markets, trade as well as global supply chains.

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

India is expected to push for a coordinated and forward-looking approach at the extraordinary G20 virtual leaders’ summit. The summit is being held against the backdrop of a divide in the G7 over US efforts to label Covid-19 as the “Wuhan virus”.

Members of the G20, which includes 19 of the world’s largest economies and the European Union, are engaged in hectic negotiations to finalize a joint communique to be issued after the meeting.

“This human crisis requires a global response. The world counts on us to come together and cooperate in order to face this challenge,” the Saudi King said. As concerns mount for poorer countries without access to capital markets and adequate health facilities, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have urged G20 leaders to support its call for governments to put debt payments on hold.

The members are also expected to outline their individual positions in separate statements during the video conference that has been convened by G20 president Saudi Arabia to discuss a joint response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his statement, is expected to refer to India’s role in forging a coordinated response through the video conference of leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) on March 15 and how this could be replicated by other countries.

On Wednesday, other members of the G7 had spurned the US state department’s push to include the phrase “Wuhan virus” in a joint statement that was to be issued after a video conference of the grouping’s foreign ministers. The members issued separate statements that reflected the divisions within the G7.

The US was responsible for framing the draft statement as it is the current president of the G7, which includes the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada.

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