Secretary-General-designate, Mr. Antonio Guterres of Portugal (L), greets U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon after speaking in front of the U.N. General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S. October 13, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Finally, UN General Assembly appoints Portugal’s Guterres as next UN Chief

United Nations (U.N.) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon greets Secretary-General-designate, Antonio Guterres of Portugal, at U.N. headquarters in New York October 13, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The 193-member United Nations General Assembly Thursday, unanimously appointed former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres as the ninth secretary general of the world body for five years beginning Jan. 1, 2017.

Guterres, 67, will replace Ban Ki-moon, 72, of South Korea who will step down at the end of 2016 after serving two terms.

“He is perhaps best known where it counts most: on the front lines of armed conflict and humanitarian suffering,” Ban told the General Assembly after Guterres was appointed. “I have long valued his advice, and long admired his spirit of service.”

Guterres was Portugal’s Prime Minister from 1995 to 2002 and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees from 2005 to 2015.

“His political instincts are those of the United Nations: cooperation for the common good, and shared responsibility for people and the planet,” Ban said adding “He recognizes the crucial importance of women’s empowerment, from peace tables to the halls of this house.”

It could be recalled that the 15-member U.N. Security Council last week unanimously recommended that the General Assembly appoint Guterres. He beat out 12 other candidates, seven of whom were women, amid a push for the first woman to be elected.

“Guterres is the sort of person who will pick a strong team around him, appointment on merit,” said a diplomat, adding that, while he had not heard it directly from any Chinese diplomats “it is clear China is making a significant challenge for the Department of Peacekeeping.”

When asked earlier this month if Russia had an interest in one of the senior U.N. positions, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters: “We do believe that Russia should be properly represented in the Secretariat.”

He did not specify which post, but added: “We are not the only ones who are expressing the interest in various positions.”

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