British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Friday that there was no doubt that some countries used vaccines as a diplomatic tool to secure influence, but Britain did not support so-called vaccine diplomacy.
Raab spoke to Reuters on the sidelines of a G7 summit in Cornwall, south-west England, likely to be dominated by the West̵
Western diplomats fear that Russia and China are using their vaccines to gain influence around the world, especially in poor countries that do not have their own production or the means to buy shots on the international market.
Asked whether he was concerned that China and Russia could use vaccines in exchange for influence, Raab said: “There is no doubt that some of this is happening and we do not support vaccine diplomacy, let alone blackmail.
“We believe we have a moral duty, but also a strong interest in getting the world vaccinated,” he said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson expects the G7 to agree to donate 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to poorer countries during the summit and help inoculate the world by the end of next year.
Raab said Britain’s contribution would not come without rigor, as at least 80% was distributed by the COVAX International Vaccine Initiative. The rest will be delivered to “strategic close countries where we have a certain relationship and no, we do not insist on conditionality”, he added.
The United States has promised to donate 500 million doses – as US President Biden stressed there would be no string. Read more
“We would only believe that it was responsible to promote vaccines that the WHO has approved as safe to distribute,” Raab said.
“But it is a team effort. And we want countries like China and Russia to meet to tackle the problems of pandemics, but also climate change, and also to respect the fundamental principles of international law.”
China currently has two WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccines, while a Russian-developed shot is awaiting approval. Russia said last week that it expects approval within the next few months. Read more
Raab also said he would soon speak to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov without specifying a specific date. He declined to comment on questions he would raise at this meeting.
Nevertheless, Raab criticized Russia as a leading protagonist in cyber attacks and called on the G7 to take a united stance against all such incidents, whether perpetrated by state or non-state actors.
“These activities are in violation of international law, many of them and they are very harmful, some of them happen for pure theft or for profit, others are done just to create chaos,” he said.
“We should be clear as an international community that cyberattacks on hospitals, on schools, on critical national infrastructure – that’s wrong. It’s indefensible, it’s beyond the pale.”
When asked about the recent forced landing of a civilian plane in Belarus, Raab said the country slipped “into pariah status”.
“We need Belarus to step up and live up to the basic, fundamental, principles of international law,” he said.
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