Wed, Apr 15, 2009 - Page 3 News List

MOFA guarded on WHA talks

POSITIONING The director-general of the department of international organizations said sharing details of alleged ‘talks’ could harm Taiwan’s position in negotiations

By Jenny W. hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday remained guarded on the status of cross-strait negotiations over Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Assembly (WHA), but insisted that no secret talks had been launched on the matter.

Asked about the timing, location, names and level of the representatives involved in the talks, Department of International Organizations Director-General Paul Chang (章文樑) said it would be “inappropriate” to share such information at the moment.

“For the time being, we believe that refraining from making substantive comments will help us with future negotiations,” he said, refusing to confirm or deny whether the talks had begun.

“But if both sides hold communication of any sort, the government will adhere to the principles of autonomy and dignity. We will not accept any arrangement that belittles or denigrates Taiwan,” said Chang, declining to elaborate on what would be considered unacceptable.

Chang said the government would announce the results of the negotiations once an agreement has been reached.

The 62nd annual WHA will convene from May 18 to May 27 in Geneva. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has repeatedly said he was “optimistic” about Taiwan’s chances of obtaining observer status at the assembly.

In an interview with United Daily News last month, Ma said talks with Beijing on Taiwan’s bid would be held “next month” in a “third country.”

Chang denied a media report that said Taiwanese and Chinese officials had met in Singapore in February.

The pan-green camp has said that Beijing could insist that Taiwan be allowed to be an observer at the WHA on an annual basis. Such an arrangement, the Democratic Progressive Party said, would mean that Taiwan’s participation at the assembly would be subject to Beijing’s approval.

Chang said that WHA rules of procedures stipulate that the office of the WHO director-general must issue a notice to all assembly observers — such as the Holy See — prior to each annual meeting to confirm the size and members of their delegation.

Asked if Taiwan could be allowed in this year but barred from attending in subsequent years, Chang said that such an outcome had no precedent.

Rule No. 3 of the Rules of ­Procedure of the Health Assembly says: “Notices convening a regular session of the Health Assembly shall be sent out by the Director-General not less than 60 days … to members and associations, to representatives of the board and all participating intergovernmental and non-­governmental organizations admitted into relationship with the Organization invited to be represented at the session.

“The Director-General may invite States having made application for membership, territories on whose behalf application for associate membership has been made, and States which have signed but not accepted the constitution to send observers to sessions of the Health Assembly,” it says.

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