Guterres calls for peace on first day as new U.N. secretary general

New U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres delivers a message to the international community on Sunday to call for peace in 2017. Sworn-in in December, the former Portuguese prime minister took office Sunday and will serve at least one five-year term, expiring Dec. 31, 2021. Image courtesy United Nations TV

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 1 (UPI) — António Guterres began his tenure as ninth U.N. secretary general on Sunday with a call for peace for 2017.

The successor to 10-year leader Ban Ki-moon asked the international community in an appeal to take steps to put the violence, bloodshed and war that raged in 2016 permanently in the past.

“On this New Year’s Day, I ask all of you to join me in making one shared New Year’s resolution: Let us resolve to put peace first,” he said.

“Peace must be our goal and our guide.”

Guterres, 67, a former prime minister of Portugal and U.N. high commissioner for refugees, was sworn-in to his new position of leadership in mid-December but didn’t formally assume office until Sunday. He was elected to the post by the General Assembly in October.

As is the case with all U.N. leaders, Guterres said he is primarily concerned with ways to bring about peace to the world — and particularly war-torn nations like Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

“How can we help the millions of people caught up in conflict, suffering massively in wars with no end in sight?” he asked. “I appeal to you all to join me in committing to peace, today and every day. Let us make 2017 a year for peace.”

Guterres will serve as head of the United Nations Secretariat until at least Dec. 31, 2021, a five-year term. The international diplomatic post is not term-limited, but the last two — South Korea’s Ban and Ghana’s Kofi Annan — retired after two five-year appointments. Five of the last six secretaries general have served 10-year spans.


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