G-20 summit opens as leaders urge united response to virus

Turkish, Saudi leaders speak by phone ahead of G20 summit

Turkey’s President Erdogan, Saudi king discuss improving ties

The twin crises of the pandemic and an uneven, uncertain global recovery dominated the first day of a two-day summit under the chairmanship of Saudi Arabia, which hands off the rotating presidency of the G20 to Italy next month.

Trump was set to beam in to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, from the White House Situation Room for a meeting chaired by King Salman and attended by the leaders of 19 leading world economies.

The prime minister termed the COVID-19 pandemic as an important turning point in the history of humanity and the biggest challenge the world is facing since World War II, a Ministry of External Affairs statement said. The economic crisis arising as a effect of the virus has dominated the agenda at the two-day summit.

In his opening remarks to G20 leaders, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz stressed the need for equitable access to the tools to combat COVID-19, including vaccines.

In a statement, the White House said Trump highlighted to his fellow world leaders at the G-20 summit that the US had "marshaled every resource at its disposal to respond to the crisis".

"At the G20 Summit, I called for $4.5 billion to be invested in ACT Accelerator by the end of 2020, for procurement & delivery of COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines everywhere", European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter.

Keen to be better prepared for any potential next pandemic that might come, G20 leaders also said they would commit "to advancing global pandemic preparedness, prevention, detection, and response" and "to the continued sharing of timely, transparent, and standardized data and information".

Xi Jinping said China will offer help and support to other developing countries.

China, where the pandemic originated a year ago, also offered to cooperate on vaccines. China has five home-grown candidates for a vaccine undergoing the last phase of trials.

The programme promotes an equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines including poor countries to rein in the pandemic.

"We will honour our commitment of giving assistance and support to other developing countries, and work to make vaccines a global public good accessible and affordable to people around the world", he said.

With Saudi hopes for a grand coming-out parade dashed due to the pandemic, the event has been reduced to brief online sessions of what observers call "digital diplomacy".

Many G20 leaders have already congratulated his rival, President-elect Joe Biden.

Especially vulnerable are poor and highly indebted countries, which are "on the precipice of financial ruin and escalating poverty, hunger and untold suffering", United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday.

International Monetary Fund managing director Kristalina Georgieva has warned that the global economy faces a hard road back from the Covid-19 recession, even as vaccines are now in sight. The G20 should respect the World Health Organization (WHO) and create a global mechanism coping with pandemics.

Some Western officials have indicated human rights will not be raised at the summit, saying they prefer to use bilateral forums to discuss the issue with Riyadh. Human Rights Watch said the summit was "a mark of worldwide prestige for the government of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman but it helps the Saudi government deflect from its image as a pervasive human rights violator".

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