WHO members reject attempt to include Taiwan in meeting

FILE PHOTO: A logo of the World Health Organization (WHO), is seen before a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, June 25, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

TAIPEI/GENEVA (Reuters) - World Health Organization member countries rejected a U.S.-backed appeal on Monday for Taiwan to be permitted to attend a meeting of the WHO’s decision-making body.

Washington, which has announced under outgoing President Donald Trump that it is quitting the WHO in part because of what it describes as pro-China bias, has pressed for the organiztion to allow Taiwan to attend meetings as an observer. Beijing, which says the island is part of China, rejects this.

The WHO’s decision-making annual assembly of 194 states is taking place via video conference this week after being adjourned in May amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Assembly President Keva Bain said a committee had recommended not to approve a proposal to include Taiwan as an observer, which had been backed by around 14 states.

China’s ambassador Chen Xu said the proposal to include Taiwan “violates the purpose and principles of the UN Charter and rejects the ‘One China’ principle”.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry late on Sunday blamed “obstruction” from China blocking its attendance. Taiwan held observer status at the WHO between 2009-2016. It has complained that its exclusion makes it more difficult to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Foreign Ministry expresses strong regret and dissatisfaction at China’s obstruction of Taiwan participating in the WHO and the WHO’s continuing to neglect the health and human rights of Taiwan’s 23.5 million people,” it said.

Taiwan is locked out of most global organisations due to the objections of China, which considers the island one of its provinces with no right to the trappings of a sovereign state.

The WHO says it cooperates with Taiwan on health matters including on aspects of the pandemic, and that the island has been provided with the help it needs, but that it is up to member states to decide whether to invite it to the meeting.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard, Emma Farge and Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Lincoln Feast and