UNITED NATIONS, March 29 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday asked for U.S. leadership in addressing global challenges such as COVID-19 and climate change.

"Cooperation between the United Nations and the United States is indeed critical for our common work. The commitment and contribution of the United States are essential to resolve the many serious global challenges we face -- starting with the COVID-19 pandemic," Guterres told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a virtual meeting.

To end the pandemic everywhere, there is a need for a global vaccination plan, and the United States can play a very important role in this, he said. "I have proposed that the G20 (Group of 20) should establish an emergency task force to develop and coordinate such a plan. But there is no way that this can work without an effective American leadership."

Guterres also asked the United States to play a leading role in global climate action.

"We are working closely together to build a global coalition for net-zero emissions by mid-century, which has been a top priority for us in the UN for 2021, and to mobilize an immediate quantum leap in adaptation, and in finance to support developing countries. Adaptation cannot be the forgotten part of climate action and we very much count on U.S. leadership in this regard."

He also noted that both the United Nations and the United States recognize the importance of investing in a sustainable, inclusive recovery from the pandemic toward the Sustainable Development Goals.

Guterres stressed the need for a surge in diplomacy for peace as conflict and violence cause enormous global suffering, threatening famine in at least six countries.

"We will work to reach lasting agreements in Afghanistan and Yemen, to consolidate our efforts in Libya, to achieve tangible progress through the political dialogue in Syria that has not yet happened, and to restart the Middle East peace process. We need a new movement for peace, from war zones to people's homes, where women and girls are facing an epidemic of gender-based violence," he said.

The UN chief also called for efforts to end systemic racism, discrimination and persecution, and to protect the rights of women, the marginalized, and minorities of all kinds.

"The United Nations is, I believe, the place to tackle our joint challenges and reaffirm our common values," he said.

Guterres welcomed the many initiatives the new U.S. administration has already taken to support multilateral responses to global challenges, and to strengthen cooperation between the United States and the world body, including rejoining the Paris Agreement on climate change, re-committing to the World Health Organization, and re-engaging with the Human Rights Council.

Blinken, in his opening remarks, said the United Nations is the anchor of the multilateral system, which is vitally important to the United States.

"We need to find ways to cooperate, to coordinate, to tackle problems together. And, of course, the United Nations is where countries come together to work on common challenges. So we have a profound stake in its success, in engaging in the UN," he said.

After the opening remarks, the two leaders began talks behind closed doors.