Coronavirus pandemic 'litmus test' for multilateralism, says Qureshi

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan chancellor Shah Mahmood Qureshi He said Wednesday that the pandemic was a litmus test for multilateralism and expressed confidence that the (OCS) was well equipped to deal with the crisis.

In an extraordinary virtual meeting of the SCO foreign ministers, Qureshi said the pandemic posed a challenge of unprecedented scale and magnitude for humanity that required coordinated responses.

He urged the SCO member states to work together to contain the virus that has killed nearly 300,000 people worldwide.

Qureshi said the crisis was a decisive test for multilateralism, and the SCO was well equipped to deal with it, according to the Foreign Ministry.

He briefed the SCO foreign ministers on Pakistan 's coordinated response to Covid-19 covering the public health as well as the economic aspects of the crisis. He observed that even though infections were spreading, Pakistan had seen relatively low fatalities.

In his speech, Qureshi also emphasized the need for the SCO to reject stigmatization and discrimination of any community in the Covid-19 context on the basis of race, religion or ethnic origin.

He praised China's handling of the virus outbreak and expressed gratitude for Chinese assistance to Pakistan .

It made a series of proposals to strengthen coordination among the SCO member states against the pandemic, including regular interaction between ministries of health; joint investigation mechanisms; and strengthening of the SCO Hospital Alliance.

As a means to support the economically vulnerable segments of society, Qureshi underlined Pakistan 's proposal for creation of the SCO Experts Group on Poverty Alleviation, as well as setting up the Centre of Excellence on Poverty.

The FO said that, apart from the prevailing pandemic situation, issues related to peace and security in the region, including Afghanistan, were discussed during the meeting.

Qureshi welcomed the peace agreement between the United States and the Taliban and hoped that Afghan leaders will seize the historic opportunity to achieve a comprehensive and inclusive political agreement. The OCS, through the OCS-Afghanistan Contact Group, could play a facilitating role at this juncture, he added.

He stressed that the fight against terrorism and extremism must remain a priority, but terrorism-related complaints should not be used as a political tool to defame and victimize any country or religion.

It also called on the international community to condemn and hold perpetrators of state terrorism.

The SCO is a China-led eight-member economic and security bloc in which India and Pakistan were admitted as full members in 2017. Its founding members included China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan , Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.