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EU backs WHO after Trump pull-out threat

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of World Health Organization (WHO) speaks at the virtual 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA) following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo: REUTERS

The European Union backed the World Health Organisation and multilateral efforts to fight the coronavirus on Tuesday after US President Donald Trump threatened to quit the global agency.

“This is the time for solidarity, not the time for finger pointing or for undermining multilateral cooperation,” European foreign affairs spokeswoman Virginie Battu-Henriksson told reporters.

The EU has sponsored a motion at Tuesday’s session of the WHO’s annual assembly to urge an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the international response to the pandemic.

And the spokeswoman said: “The European Union backs the WHO in its efforts to contain and mitigate the COVID-19 outbreak and has already provided additional funding to support these efforts.”

Not for the first time, this puts Brussels in opposition to Washington, where Trump has accused the UN health agency of being too close to China and of being slow to react to the COVID-19 outbreak.

On Monday, the US leader — who has already frozen US funding for the WHO — wrote its director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, to lay out the charges and threaten to pull out.

“They’re a puppet of China, they’re China-centric to put it nicer,” he explained.

Beijing has furiously denied the US allegations that it played down the threat and Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated at the World Health Assembly that his nation had been “transparent” throughout the crisis.

Brussels is backing an independent inquiry into how the epidemic erupted and spread, but has tried to lead an international, multilateral response to the crisis and raise funds for vaccine research.

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