‘It’s high time to fight for peace’

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The UN Security Council announced on Thursday, October 6, the official nomination of Antonio Guterres, the former Portuguese prime minister and UN high commissioner for refugees, as the next UN secretary-general. Guterres, the ninth person to hold the role, will begin his five-year term in January. The UN General Assembly was expected to meet next week to approve his appointment. Guterres, 67, says he will ?serve the most vulnerable,? in this role, according to the BBC. Credit: YouTube/United Nations

The UN General Assembly has formally appointed Antonio Guterres as the new Secretary-General. Picture: AFP/Jewel Samad

NEWLY-APPOINTED UN chief Antonio Guterres says it’s time to overcome divisions over ending the war in Syria, ahead of two days of international talks on the crisis.

“Whatever divisions might exist now it’s more important to unite,” Guterres said. “It’s high time to fight for peace.”

His comments come after the 193-member United Nations General Assembly unanimously appointed him as the ninth secretary-general of the world body for five years beginning January 1, 2017.

Guterres, 67, will replace Ban Ki-moon, 72, of South Korea. Ban will step down at the end of 2016 after serving two terms. Guterres was Portugal’s prime minister from 1995 to 2002 and UN High Commissioner for Refugees from 2005 to 2015.

“He is perhaps best known where it counts most: on the front lines of armed conflict and humanitarian suffering,” Ban told the General Assembly after Guterres was appointed on Thursday.

“I have long valued his advice, and long admired his spirit of service. His political instincts are those of the United Nations: co-operation for the common good, and shared responsibility for people and the planet. He recognises the crucial importance of women’s empowerment, from peace tables to the halls of this house.”

The 15-member UN Security Council last week unanimously recommended the General Assembly appoint Guterres.

He beat out 12 other candidates, seven of whom were women including former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark, amid a push for the first woman to be elected.

Diplomats were watching to see who Guterres appoints to senior UN positions amid speculation by diplomats and UN officials that China would like one of its nationals to head peacekeeping and that Russia is keen to lead political affairs.

Newly-appointed UN chief Antonio Guterres says it’s time to overcome divisions over ending the war in Syria. Picture: Syria Press Center via AP

Newly-appointed UN chief Antonio Guterres says it’s time to overcome divisions over ending the war in Syria. Picture: Syria Press Center via APSource:AP

Currently, a French man runs peacekeeping, an American man leads political affairs and a British man is in charge of humanitarian affairs. A senior UN Security Council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said several people had insisted that Guterres did not do any deals to win Russia and China’s votes.

“(Guterres is) the sort of person who will pick a strong team around him, appointment on merit,” said the diplomat, adding that, while he had not heard it directly from any Chinese diplomats “it is clear (China is) making a significant challenge for the Department of Peacekeeping.”

When asked earlier this month if Russia had an interest in one of the senior UN positions, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters: “We do believe that Russia should be properly represented in the Secretariat.”

He did not specify which post, but added: “We are not the only ones who are expressing the interest in various positions.”

Syrian regime forces launched airstrikes on Ghouta, the rebel-held eastern suburbs of Damascus, on Wednesday, October 12, pounding Saqba, Arbeen and Kfarbatna. At least 10 people were wounded in Saqba, according to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports. The Local Coordination Committees, a group monitoring the Syrian civil war, said that one person was killed in the strike on Saqba. Videos released by pro-opposition media and the Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the ?White Helmets,? show rescue workers rushing to the scene of the attack in Saqba. Credit: Video 1: YouTube/SMO Syria; Video 2: YouTube/Syrian Civil Defense; Video 3: YouTube/SMART News Agency; Video 4: YouTube/Baladi News