G20 summit opens in Saudi with call for united response to pandemic

European Council President Charles Michel, on screen bottom, participates in a virtual G20 meeting, hosted by Saudi Arabia, at the European Council building in Brussels, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (Yves Herman, Pool via AP)

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Saturday opened the Group of 20 summit as the coronavirus pandemic overshadows this year’s gathering of heads of state, transforming it from an in-person two-day meeting of the world’s most powerful leaders to a virtual gathering of speeches and declarations.

The pandemic, which has claimed more than 1.37 million lives worldwide, has offered the G-20 an opportunity to prove how such bodies can facilitate international cooperation in crises – but has also underscored their shortcomings.

The G-20’s member countries represent around 85% of the world’s economic output and three-quarters of international trade.

“We have a duty to rise to the challenge together during this summit and give a strong message of hope and reassurance,” King Salman said in his opening remarks.

The kingdom, which assumed the G-20 presidency this year, is the host of the virtual summit that is bringing together leaders from the world’s richest and most developed economies, such as the U.S, China, India, Turkey, France, the U.K, and Brazil, among others.

President Donald Trump is among those expected to participate in the closed-door virtual sessions that are taking place on Saturday and Sunday.

King Salman urged G-20 leaders to provide support to developing countries in a coordinated manner.

The Saudi monarch touted G-20 efforts to inject more than $11 trillion into the global economy this year as stimuli to support businesses and the most vulnerable.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, South Africa’s Cyril Rampahosa and World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus also attended the virtual opening ceremony on Saturday.