Calls for UN Reopening Grow With Virus Easing in New York City

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(Bloomberg) -- Germany and Russia are urging the United Nations to partially reopen its New York headquarters as the spread of coronavirus slows.

Germany, which will hold the presidency of the UN Security Council in July, wants to “discuss a possible return to real meetings” of the council while reducing the number of staff on hand and sticking to social distancing guidelines, Ambassador Christoph Heusgen wrote in a letter to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres seen by Bloomberg News.

So far, Guterres has taken a cautious approach to reopening the UN’s headquarters building along the East River. He called this week for a scaled-down version of the annual General Assembly gathering this fall.

“I agree with your decision to extend the lockdown of UN premises until the end of June,” Heusgen wrote on Monday, adding that several other diplomats share Germany’s “desire to return to real and formal” meetings. “Hopefully the situation in New York will have improved by then, and a partial reopening of the UN will be possible,” he said. “Reopening the UN would send a strong signal to people around the globe.”

Writing two days later in support of the German position, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia went further, urging the UN to go forward with elections for the Security Council and the General Assembly in the assembly hall in June.

“This would be a much better solution than to invent complicated and non-ideal alternative schemes,” he wrote.

New York City remains mostly shut down after failing to meet some of seven state-required metrics, but hospitalizations, intubations and new admissions continue a slow decline statewide.

The UN Security Council has been holding virtual meetings since the New York shutdown began in March, though Guterres and some of his staff have continued to visit the headquarters.

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