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No End to Face-off: China, US Try to Stall UNSC Resolution on Covid-19 Over Reference to WHO

Representative Image.

Representative Image.

As negotiations continue, Estonia, which holds the current UNSC presidency, has been very critical of the UN’s role in the pandemic.

France and Tunisia are pushing for a "compromise" on a draft resolution on coronavirus in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that is ironically being blocked by China & the United States, both permanent UNSC members.

Amid the tussle, News18 has accessed inside details of why the crucial resolution is being blocked.

Diplomatic sources from three different countries said the US is not in favour of a reference to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the resolution. This follows the decision of the Trump administration to suspend funding for the WHO, accusing it of showing a "dangerous bias" towards China and failing to adequately inform the world of the deadly virus.

The US is asking for inclusion of “transparency”, a source said. After informal consultations on Tuesday, they conveyed that as a compromise, they could drop the transparency language formulation but the WHO reference should go as well.

Another source revealed that China is using the dropping of reference to WHO simply as a tool to scuttle or delay any resolution on Covid-19 and to oppose the US. The source said China anyway did not tell the truth to WHO and is now preventing experts from investigating.

To start off, the French and Tunisian resolutions were separate and were merged into one two weeks ago. As negotiations continue, Estonia, which holds the current UNSC presidency, has been very critical of the UN’s role in the pandemic. As president for the month of May, it wants to ensure that a resolution is pushed through.

News18 spoke to Estonian Ambassador to India Katrin Kivi, who said they tried to push a resolution in March too but it didn't work out so it is keen on getting it done during its presidency this month. Despite the fact that UNSC is working remotely due to the pandemic and social distancing requirements, Kivi stressed that it's "best for the United Nations and Security Council to work in the most transparent manner as under normal times”.

Meanwhile, the US and Chinese ambassadors to UN indulged in public sparring on Twitter. Ambassador Kelly Craft tweeted, “COVID 19 is killing thousands of people worldwide and yet Chinese Communist Party has not come clean on what it knows about this crisis that began in Wuhan." Chinese envoy Zhang Jun retorted, saying, "Facts are on the table... blaming China can not shrug off your own responsibility."

In a letter dated April 8 and addressed to the General Assembly President, the Chinese permanent mission in the UN refuted all allegations against them. They denied charges of having suppressed information about the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan. The letter stated that on February 16, a joint China-WHO expert team started a nine-day field visit in China. The team comprised 25 experts from China, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Nigeria, the Russian Federation, Singapore, the United States and WHO.

Foreign experts included Bruce Aylward, a senior WHO adviser, and Cliff Lane, a researcher with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the United States.