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Europe

China, France hold exploratory meeting to ease tensions

©

Video by Catherine VIETTE

Latest update : 2009-04-02

On the sidelines of the G20 summit in London on Thursday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao held talks to clear the air about Tibet, to enable a new, more cooperative, phase in Franco-Chinese ties.

AFP - The French and Chinese presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Hu Jintao held talks in London in a bid to end tensions over Tibet, a Chinese official said Thursday.
  
China was furious at Sarkozy for meeting the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, but the talks late Wednesday on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit was intended to end the dispute.
  
"Our meeting today means a new starting point for the bilateral relations, and I hope the two sides work together to usher in a new phase in Chinese-French ties," Hu told Sarkozy, according to China's state Xinhua news agency.
  
Chinese state television showed images of the encounter with a stern looking Hu talking briskly, while Sarkozy bowed his head and scribbled in his notebook.
  
"Recently, China-France relations have had some serious difficulties, which is something we did not want to see," Hu was quoted as saying. "France has reaffirmed that it will support the one China policy and that Tibet is an inseparable part of China."
  
Sarkozy's December 6 encounter with the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, in Poland on December 6 brought icy diplomatic protests from Beijing. China cancelled a China-European Union summit in December when France held the rotating EU presidency.
  
There were public protests such as cyber-attacks on the French embassy website while French businesses worried about the fallout.
  
Any hint of recognition of an independent Tibet is one of the worst diplomatic offences that can be committed in Chinese eyes and the London meeting had been in doubt for several days. The Chinese foreign ministry at first said Hu had no intention of meeting the French president.
  
But the two governments on Wednesday announced that France and China have decided to renew "high level contacts".
  
"France fully understands the importance and sensitivity of the Tibet question and reaffirms its policy of there being only one China and that Tibet is an integral part of of Chinese territory," said the French foreign ministry.
  
"In this spirit and in respect of the principle of non-interference, France denies having any support for Tibetan independence in any form," it added.
  
"The two sides are willing to strengthen communication and consultation and jointly face the world financial crisis and other global challenges," the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.
  
"The two sides have decided to hold high-level contacts and a strategic dialogue at an appropriate time, promote bilateral cooperation in all spheres and promote the stable development of China-France relations."
  
China opposes any government figure meeting the Dalai Lama, whom it accuses of being intent on achieving independence for Tibet after 58 years of Chinese rule. The Dalai Lama says he only wants autonomy for the Himalayan region where there have been deaths in protests in recent months, according to Tibetan sources.
  
Franco-Chinese ties were already strained before the December meeting.
  
Chinese public opinion was shocked when athletes carrying the Olympic torch through Paris on its way to the Beijing Olympics were harassed by pro-Tibetan protesters.
  
In February, China protested the auction in Paris of two Chinese bronze relics looted during the Second Opium War in 1860.

Date created : 2009-04-02

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