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MOFA defends deal to provide Ukraine aid via Czech NGO

05/06/2024 08:24 PM
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Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. CNA file photo
Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. CNA file photo

Taipei, May 6 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Monday denied allegations by a Kuomintang (KMT) lawmaker that it mishandled taxpayer money in a partnership with the Czech Republic to provide assistance to Ukraine.

MOFA spokesman Jeff Liu (劉永健) said at a press conference that the ministry plans to pursue legal action against the lawmaker, Hsu Chiao-hsin (徐巧芯), for divulging secret details of an MOU Taiwan signed with the Czech Republic last December.

Hsu revealed details of the MOU in a Facebook post early Sunday, after what she said was a failure by Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) to substantively respond to her concerns during a legislative hearing.

Hsu said that under a confidential portion of an agreement signed last December, Taiwan agreed to provide a US$10 million donation to rebuild Ukraine's medical capacity through an organization called the Czech Health Technology Institute (CHTI), with the condition that 30-40 percent of the funds be used to purchase medical supplies from Taiwan.

She questioned whether such donations, which pass through the hands of a third party, can be effectively monitored by MOFA, as well as whether the US$3 million-US$4 million in medical supply purchases would be steered toward certain companies based on political favoritism.

Hsu also accused MOFA of trying to "indirectly intervene" in Czech politics through CHTI chairman Petr Foit, whom she described as a major figure in the country's medical supplies industry with close ties to Czech parliamentarians, who also visited Taiwan with a Czech delegation in March of last year.

Kuomintang lawmaker Hsu Chiao-hsin. CNA file photo
Kuomintang lawmaker Hsu Chiao-hsin. CNA file photo

Responding to the claims on Monday, Liu said that because Taiwan does not have formal diplomatic ties with Ukraine, it has partnered with neighboring countries, as well as with Ukrainian local governments and NGOs, to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine since its full-scale invasion by Russia in February 2022.

Such arrangements with central and eastern European countries, which have longstanding ties with Ukraine, are in fact a more secure way of making donations to Kyiv, he said.

In addition to helping Ukraine, these partnerships also strengthen Taiwan's ties with friendly countries in the region, creating a win-win-win situation, Liu said.

With regard to this specific agreement, CHTI is not a private company, but an NGO that has cooperated with multiple ministries in the Czech government, he added.

Liu also defended the government's handling of the MOU, saying that MOFA announced some of its content in December, but kept other portions secret due to the risk of such deals facing "obstruction" or "sabotage" -- presumably referring to China.

The full text of the MOU was, nevertheless, available to lawmakers for review, making it "total nonsense" to call it a "secret agreement," he said.

While MOFA is willing to provide lawmakers with private briefings on the MOU, they "cannot simply make confidential documents available to the media," Liu said, adding that MOFA is preparing to pursue legal action over the issue.

Later on Monday, MOFA sources confirmed that the ministry plans to file a legal complaint with prosecutors against Hsu, likely on Tuesday or Wednesday.

(By Yeh Su-ping, Joseph Yeh and Matthew Mazzetta)

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