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United Nations urges cease-fire in Afghanistan amid COVID-19 concerns

The U.N. Security Council is urging Afghanistan’s warring parties to heed the U.N. secretary-general’s call for an immediate cease-fire to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure delivery of humanitarian aid throughout the country.

The council issued a statement Tuesday after a closed briefing by U.N. deputy special representative Ingrid Hayden who said the country “appears to be reaching a defining moment” — whether its feuding leaders can join together “to engage in meaningful talks with the Taliban to achieve a sustainable peace.”

“The choice is made stark by the all-encompassing threat of COVID-19, which poses grave dangers to the health of Afghanistan’s population and, potentially, to the stability of its institutions,” she said in remarks sent to U.N. correspondents.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and political opponent Abdullah Abdullah have been locked in a power struggle since last September’s election, and both declared themselves president and held parallel inauguration ceremonies in early March.

The discord has prompted the Trump administration to say it would cut $1 billion in assistance to Afghanistan if the two can’t work out their differences.

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