Ou likely to miss talks on WHA

‘TECHNICAL ISSUES’:China’s foreign ministry spokesman softened Beijing’s usual stance by saying that ‘ability and wisdom’ was available to solve the controversy

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sat, Mar 28, 2009 - Page 3

Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) yesterday said he would most likely be absent from upcoming negotiations with China on Taiwan’s bid to become an observer at the World Health Assembly (WHA), but hopes the talks will be launched before the Boao Forum on Apr. 17.

Declining to disclose the date and location of the talks, Ou said so far no details have been finalized, including what names may be used for both sides during the negotiations.

“The political will [to help Taiwan become a WHA observer] has been established. Now, we just need to settle some of the technical issues,” he said, referring to which name Taiwan would use in the health body and which strategy Taiwan would use to achieve its goal.

On Thursday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang (秦剛) told a regular briefing that as long as the notion of “two Chinas” or “one China, one Taiwan” do not arise, a proper arrangement regarding Taiwan’s WHA entrance could be made through bilateral negotiations.

Departing from Beijing’s usual stance of panning Taiwan as a non-sovereign nation, Qin took a softer tone, saying: “The Chinese people on both side of the Strait definitely have the ability and the wisdom to find a suitable solution to the problem.”

Former Control Yuan president Frederick Chien (錢復) has been named as Taiwan’s representative at the annual business forum next month. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) is also expected to attend.

When asked if the WHA issue would be discussed in a Chien-Wen meeting, Ou said that he hopes the talk would be launched before the forum “or else it would be too rushed.”

This year’s WHA is scheduled to convene on May 18.

The Republic of China withdrew from the WHO in 1972 after it relinquished its UN seat a year earlier. The country has been vying to return to the organization since 1997, but each attempt has been foiled by Beijing’s interference.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said in an interview with the ­Chinese-language United Daily News earlier this month that Taiwan was ready to launch talks next month in a third country with Beijing on Taiwan’s WHA bid.

Ou said that so far the parties have not agreed on a venue and declined to confirm the possibility of holding the talks in Geneva, where the WHO is headquartered, as reported by local media.

The minister, however, said he was confident that Taiwan had strong international support, adding the exclusion of Taiwan from the global network could be detrimental to all the countries in the world. However, he acknowledged that a green light from Beijing remained the key factor in Taiwan’s admission.

Meanwhile, while speaking at the ceremony commemorating the third anniversary of Taiwan International Health Action, Ou commended the government-sponsored humanitarian and medical relief group for their contribution to providing immediate healthcare to disaster zones around the world.

“Taiwan has been, and always will be, a responsible and constructive member of the world health community … I hope the international community will respect the spirit of universal participation enshrined in the WHO Constitution and support Taiwan’s participation in the WHA and WHO,” Ou told an audience that included several ambassadors and representatives.