Biden, U.N. chief discuss 'strengthened partnership' on COVID-19, climate

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President-elect Joe Biden delivers a pre-Thanksgiving speech at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., November 25, 2020. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Joe Biden spoke with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday, Biden's transition team said, discussing the need for a "strengthened partnership" to combat COVID-19 pandemic and climate change - two areas where President Donald Trump shunned a multilateral approach.

Trump has referred to climate change as a "hoax" and in 2017 pulled the United States out of a global accord to tackle climate change - a decision which took effect on Nov. 4. Biden has pledged to rejoin the deal, which was agreed in 2015.

Trump also cut funding to the World Health Organization and also announced plans for the United States to withdraw from the global body - a decision that would have taken effect in July next year. Trump has accused the WHO of becoming a puppet of China amid the coronavirus pandemic. Biden has said he will rescind Trump's decision.

Biden and Guterres also discussed "addressing humanitarian need; advancing sustainable development; upholding peace and security and resolving conflicts; and promoting democracy and human rights," Biden's transition team said in a statement.

Biden expressed deep concern to Guterres about the escalating violence in Ethiopia and the risk posed to civilians.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed lauded his troops on Monday for ousting a northern movement, but the leader of Tigrayan forces said they were still resisting amid fears of a protracted guerrilla conflict.

The nearly month-long war has killed hundreds and possibly thousands of people, sent refugees into Sudan, enmeshed Eritrea, and stirred rivalries among Ethiopia's myriad ethnic groups.

Guterres spoke with Abiy on Sunday, said U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric, calling for a full respect of human rights and humanitarian aid access.

"The Secretary General also said that Ethiopia needed a true reconciliation, without discrimination ... where every community should feel respected and be part of Ethiopia," Dujarric told reporters on Monday.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

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