Germany Health Minister 'Anything but Happy' Syria Given Seat on WHO Board

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said Tuesday that he was not pleased that Syria was confirmed for a spot on the World Health Organization (WHO) executive board, amid decades-long war the Syrian government waged against dissenters.

"I'm anything but happy with this decision," Spahn said during a news conference in Berlin.

However, Spahn said this decision demonstrates the need for international cooperation between governments to benefit their people.

"Especially when it comes to health issues and the health care of the population, the question is always: Who are we actually punishing here if we don't make cooperation possible?" Spahn said. "Are we punishing the regime or the population?"

Syria Bashar Assad World Health Organization
Syrians wave national flags and carry a portrait of their president as they celebrate in the streets of the capital Damascus, a day after an election set to give the current President Bashar al-Assad a fourth term, on May 27, 2021. Germany's health minister expressed his displeasure Tuesday after Syria was given a seat of the World Health Organization's executive board. LOUAI BESHARA/AFP via Getty Images

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Dozens of medical workers in rebel-held northwest Syria on Monday protested the decision to grant the seat to Syrian President Bashar Assad's government, accusing it of responsibility for bombing hospitals and clinics across the war-ravaged country.

The war has left half a million people dead and driven millions out of the country since the conflict erupted in 2011.

Syria was among 12 WHO member nations chosen to put forward new members for the 34-strong executive board, which is largely a technical group whose role is to carry out the decisions of, and advise, the assembly.

Syria will take up the seat when the board holds its latest meeting, which starts Wednesday.

Syria World Health Organization
In this image taken from video, dozens of medical workers protest a decision to grant Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government a seat on the executive board of the World Health Organization, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Idlib, Syria. Germany's health minister expressed his displeasure with the decision Tuesday. AP Photo