0251 GMT September 28, 2020
Germany’s Health Ministry said the issue was discussed during a call of health ministers from the Group of Seven leading economies Thursday, AP reported.
In a statement Saturday, the ministry said that in view of the United States’ withdrawal from WHO, “Germany and France currently see no mandate for the US to lead the WHO reform process for the G7.”
“How can you be leading while you are leaving?” the ministry added.
The Trump administration, which holds the rotating presidency of the G7 this year, gave the WHO a year’s notice in July that it is leaving the UN agency after Donald Trump accused it of being too close to China and having mishandled the coronavirus pandemic.
The WHO has dismissed his accusations. European governments have also criticized the WHO but do not go as far as the United States in their criticism, and the decision by Paris and Berlin to leave the talks follows tensions over what they say are Washington’s attempts to dominate the negotiations.
Three officials told Reuters on Friday that France and Germany have quit talks on reforming the WHO in frustration at attempts by the US to lead the negotiations, despite its decision to leave the organization.
“Nobody wants to be dragged into a reform process and getting an outline for it from a country which itself just left the WHO,” a senior European official involved in the talks said.
The German and French health ministries also confirmed to Reuters that the two countries were opposed to the US leading the talks after announcing their intention to leave the organization.
A spokesman for the Italian Health Ministry said that work on the reform document was still underway, adding however that Italy’s position was in line with Paris and Berlin.
Asked about the position of France and Germany, a senior Trump administration official said: “All members of the G7 explicitly supported the substance of the WHO reform ideas.”
“Notwithstanding, it is regrettable that Germany and France ultimately chose not to join the group in endorsing the roadmap,” he said.
A spokesman for the British government declined to comment on the latest developments but added that Britain supported the WHO and urged a reform of the body “to ensure it remains flexible and responsive”.
The talks on WHO reform began about four months ago. There have been nearly 20 teleconferences between health ministers from the Group of Seven industrialized nations, and dozens of meetings of diplomats and other officials.
A deal by the G7, which also includes Japan and Canada, would facilitate talks at the G20 and United Nations, where any changes would have to be agreed with China, Russia and other major governments not in the G7.
It is unclear whether a G7 summit in the United States, at which Trump hopes leaders will endorse the roadmap, will now go ahead in September as planned.
US officials have not said what reforms Washington has sought. But an initial reform roadmap proposed by Washington was seen by many of its allies as too critical, with one European official involved in the negotiations describing it as “rude”.
Despite changes to the original text, Washington’s push remained unacceptable, mainly to Germany, sources familiar with the negotiations said.
Some Europeans see Trump’s criticism of the WHO as an attempt in the run-up to the US election to distract attention from his handling of COVID-19, and Berlin’s ties with Washington have been strained by his decision in July to withdraw thousands of US troops from Germany.
Plans to reform the WHO are unlikely to be definitively shelved, especially if Trump is defeated in the November election. European governments want Washington to remain a WHO member and a financial supporter, and they have shown an interest in boosting their own funding to the body.