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Ecuador Foreign Minister Elected Next UNGA President

FILE - Ecuador's Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces speaks at a press conference in Quito, Ecuador, Jan. 11, 2018.
FILE - Ecuador's Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces speaks at a press conference in Quito, Ecuador, Jan. 11, 2018.

Ecuador's foreign minister has been elected the 73rd president of the U.N. General Assembly.

María Fernanda Espinosa Garces had a decisive victory over Honduras' U.N. Ambassador Mary Elizabeth Flores Flake.

The upcoming presidency of the 193-member assembly was slated for the Latin American and Caribbean regional bloc.

Honduras' Flake was initially the only Latin American candidate.But diplomats said Arab countries, unhappy at the Trump administration decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move its embassy there, encouraged Ecuador to challenge her after Tegucigalpa announced it would follow the United States and move its embassy to Jerusalem.

Espinosa is only the fourth woman to hold the job in the United Nation's 73 years and the first from her region.

"I would like to dedicate this election to all the women in the world who participate in politics today, and who face political and media attacks marked by machismo and discrimination," Espinosa said in her acceptance speech.

In her vision statement for the job, Espinosa said gender equality must continue to be a "crosscutting issue at the United Nations. "She said the organization must utilize the talents of women to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in all multilateral processes.

"We can and must do better than a record of four women in 73 years, and two in the past half century," said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. "May today's choice pave the way for accelerating the progress towards gender equality, within and beyond the United Nations."

The U.N. chief has made gender parity a top priority.The organization recently reached it among its senior officials, but there is still work to be done to move women up through the ranks of middle management, in peacekeeping missions, and other areas.

Sheikha Haya Rashed Al-Khalifa of Bahrain was the last female president of the General Assembly during its 61st session, more than a decade ago.Looking back even further, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit of India presided over the assembly's eighth session and Angie Brooks of Liberia over its twenty-fourth.

Representatives speaking on behalf of each of the U.N.'s regional groups welcomed Espinosa's election as another step toward progress.

"It is our ardent hope that this has ushered in a real era of equitable gender representation as a norm, rather than an exception in the U.N. system, especially at this level," Mauritius' Ambassador Jagdish Dharamchand Koonjul said on behalf of the Africa group, summing up the general sentiment.

Espinosa will take over from the current General Assembly president Miroslav Lajcak of Slovakia on September 18.