World leaders must not let themselves be dominated by a geopolitical power struggle between the US and China, French President Emmanuel Macron told the UN General Assembly on Tuesday as the annual global diplomatic gathering went online amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
World leaders have been invited to provide pre-recorded messages for the virtual gathering, where delegations are represented in person by a lone diplomat.
US President Donald Trump used the occasion to attack China's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying it must be held accountable for having "unleashed this plague onto the world".
In contrast, China's President Xi Jinping struck a conciliatory tone in his pre-recorded address, calling for enhanced cooperation over the pandemic and stressing that China had no intention of fighting "either a Cold War or a hot war with any country".
To watch FRANCE 24's live coverage of the event, click on the video player above.
Guterres warns against 'new Cold War'
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the world is facing an "epochal" health crisis, the biggest economic calamity since the Great Depression and worries of a new Cold War between the US and China.
In his grim state of the world speech, the UN chief called for global unity, first and foremost to fight the coronavirus pandemic, and sharply criticised populism and nationalism for failing to contain the virus, and for often making things worse.
Guterres: 'Covid-19 has layed bare the world's fragilities' 00:33
Guterres called for a global ceasefire on March 23 to tackle the pandemic, and he appealed for a 100-day push by the international community, led by the Security Council, "to make this a reality by the end of the year".
"There is only one winner of conflict during a pandemic: the virus itself," he stressed, reiterating a warning he made to world leaders a year ago about increasing US-China rivalry.
"Our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe in a Great Fracture - each with its own trade and financial rules and internet and artificial intelligence capacities," Guterres said. "We must do everything to avoid a new Cold War."
Trump: 'UN must hold China accountable'
US President Donald Trump told the UN General Assembly that China must be held accountable by the world for its actions over the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a recorded message, Trump accused Beijing of allowing the coronavirus to "leave China and infect the world".
Trump: 'We must hold accountable the nation that unleashed this plague' 07:21
"The United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions," he said.
China's Xi says no intention to fight 'cold war or hot one'
Shortly after Trump's video address, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Beijing has "no intention to fight either a cold war or a hot one with any country".
China's Xi warns against 'politicising' coronavirus fight 14:42
"We will continue to narrow differences and resolve disputes with others through dialogue and negotiation," Xi said in his pre-recorded statement. "We will not seek to develop only ourselves or engage in zero sum game."
Macron says US maximum pressure on Iran not working
The US strategy of applying maximum pressure on Iran has failed, France's president said on Tuesday, dismissing Washington's efforts to restore UN sanctions against Tehran.
"The maximum pressure strategy, which has been under way for several years, has not at this stage made it possible to end Iran's destabilising activities or to ensure that it will not be able to acquire nuclear weapons," Emmanuel Macron said in a speech to the UN General Assembly.
"This is why France, along with its German and British partners, will maintain its demand for the full implementation of the 2015 Vienna Agreement and will not accept the violations committed by Iran," Macron added.
'We will not compromise' on Iran nuclear deal, says France's Macron 00:29
The French leader also called for a "modern new consensus" on tackling global challenges, saying world leaders must not let themselves be dominated by a geopolitical power struggle between the US and China.
"The world today cannot be reduced to the rivalry between China and the United States, irrespective of the global weight of these great powers," he said.
Iran not a 'bargaining chip' in US election, Rouhani warns
Iran's president said the United States could impose "neither negotiations nor war" on the Islamic Republic amid heightened tension between the longtime foes.
"Iran is not a bargaining chip in US elections and domestic policy... Any US administration after the upcoming elections will have no choice but to surrender to the resilience of the Iranian nation," Hassan Rouhani told the UN gathering.
Iran has refused to hold talks with the US unless Washington lifts sanctions imposed on Tehran after Trump unilaterally withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal with world powers.
"This is a victory not just for Iran, but for the global community - during the transitional international order in the post-Western world - that an aspirant to hegemony is humiliated in such self-created isolation," Rouhani
Turkey's Erdogan calls for diplomacy on Iran
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called for dialogue and diplomacy to resolve issues related to Iran's nuclear programme, urging all parties to abide by the 2015 agreement later abandoned by the US.
"We support solving issues regarding Iran's nuclear programme by taking international law into consideration and through dialogue and diplomacy," Erdogan told the UN General Assembly.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's speech at UN General Assembly 25:27
"I repeat our call for all parties to abide by their responsibilities under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which provides serious contributions to regional and global security," he said.
The United States on Monday announced new sanctions against Iran's defence ministry and others involved in its nuclear and weapons programme.
Putin touts 'reliable' Russian vaccine
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the World Health Organisation should be strengthened to coordinate the global response to the coronavirus pandemic and proposed a high-level conference on vaccine cooperation.
"We are proposing to hold an online high-level conference shortly for countries interested in cooperation in the development of anti-coronavirus vaccines," Putin said in his message to the Assembly.
"We are ready to share experience and continue cooperating with all states and international entities, including in supplying the Russian vaccine which has proved reliable, safe, and effective, to other countries," he added.
Bolsonaro defends handling of world's second deadliest Covid-19 outbreak
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro rejected international criticism of his government's environmental policies in his pre-recorded speech, claiming his government was the victim of a "brutal campaign of misinformation".
Environmental advocates blame Bolsonaro for emboldening illegal ranchers and land speculators who set fire to land to increase its value for agricultural use.
The Brazilian president, who has repeatedly downplayed the danger from Covid-19, also defended his handling of the world's second deadliest outbreak, lamenting the deaths that have passed 137,200.