Economy1 hour ago (Jun 11, 2021 07: 39AM ET)
© Reuters. Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab gestures during an interview with Reuters on the sidelines of G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, Britain, June 11, 2021. REUTERS/Toby Melville
By William James
CARBIS BAY, England (Reuters) -British foreign ministry Dominic Raab said on Friday there was no doubt some nations were using vaccines as a diplomatic tool to secure influence but Britain did not encourage so-called vaccine diplomacy.
Raab was speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of a G7 summit in Cornwall, southwestern England, that was likely to be dominated by the West’s efforts to reassert its influence as the world looks to reconstruct from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Western diplomats fear Russia and China are using their vaccines to gain influence across the world, especially in poorer countries which don’t possess their own manufacturing or the means to purchase shots on the international market.
Asked if he was concerned that China and Russia could use vaccines in exchange for sway, Raab said:”There’s no doubt there’s some of this is going about, and we don’t support vaccine diplomacy, let alone blackmail.
“We believe that we have got a moral responsibility, but also a powerful vested interest in receiving 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 its summit, and help inoculate the world by the end of next year.
Raab said Britain’s contribution would come with no strings attached, with at least 80% being distributed by the COVAX international vaccine initiative. The rest would be provided to”strategic near countries where we have a particular connection, and no, we don’t insist on conditionality”, he added.
The United States has promised to donate 500 million doses – which U.S. President Biden stressed would come with no strings attached.
“We would only think it was in charge of promoting vaccines which the WHO has sanctioned as secure to disperse,” Raab said.
“But it’s a group effort. And we want the countries like China and Russia to come together to tackle the problems of pandemic, but also climate change, and to honor the fundamental principles of international law.”
China currently has two WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccines, while a Russian-developed shot is waiting approval. Russia said last week it expected that approval in the next couple of months.
Raab also said he would be speaking to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shortly, without giving a specific date. He declined to comment on issues he would raise at that meeting.
Nevertheless Raab criticised Russia as a leading protagonist of cyber attacks, calling for the G7 to take a united stand against all such incidents, whether conducted by state or non-state actors.
“These actions are contrary to international law, many of these, a