(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 30, 2019, Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf , President of the International Court of Justice, gives his Report of the International Court of Justice during the 74th Session of the General Assembly at the United Nations on October 30, 2019. AFP

This year’s UN General Assembly will be held virtually for the first time in history because of the coronavirus pandemic, its president announced Wednesday.

The meeting is still scheduled for September 22-29 but will be carried out with previously recorded speeches by world leaders, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, who is from Nigeria, said in a letter to UN member countries.

“I surmise that the limitations on international travel and convening of large in-person meetings as a result of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, may, in varying degrees, still be in effect in September 2020,” Muhammad-Bande wrote.

Member states must send the UN an embargoed speech of up to 15 minutes by their president, prime minister, some government minister or UN ambassador at least five days before the assembly, he said.

And a diplomat from each mission can attend a real life session during which the speeches will be broadcast or read aloud from the podium of the UN assembly hall.

Last month UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said it was unlikely that world leaders could meet in September as planned, because of the global health crisis.

The General Assembly is the world’s largest diplomatic gathering, and entails hundreds of side events and bilateral or multilateral meetings of world leaders.

It has never been cancelled since the United Nations was founded in 1945.

But it has been postponed twice: in 2001 because of the September 11 attacks in the United States, and in 1964 because of a financial crisis.

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