Paris brushes off Chinese PM snub

21st January 2009, Comments 0 comments

Foreign ministry spokesman says France is not being snubbed due to deteriorating relations with China.

PARIS - Paris on Tuesday brushed off a decision by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to skip France when he makes a fence-mending tour of European capitals next week, denying it was a snub to the French government.

"I do not sense an attempt to go everywhere in Europe but France," foreign ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier told reporters after Beijing announced plans for the week-long visit, starting next Tuesday.

"I do not believe that the Chinese prime minister's schedule includes all the countries in the EU, or even all the countries considered to have the most economic and demographic weight in the Europe," he said.

Relations between France and China have been badly strained over the question of Tibet, hitting a low point when Beijing postponed a December summit with the EU due to be hosted in France.

Beijing was protesting at a decision by President Nicolas Sarkozy, then holder of the rotating EU presidency, to meet Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

Wen's visit to Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Britain, and the European Union headquarters in Brussels was presented by Beijing as a move to mend ties with Europe hurt by tensions over Tibet, but France has been left off the list.

However, Chevallier welcomed news of the European tour, saying it would be "very useful to tackle the major global challenges" facing Europe and China.

On bilateral ties, he said there was a need for "a relationship between France and China that is useful for everyone, stable and peaceful."

China opposes any foreign leaders holding talks with the Dalai Lama, but took unusually strong action against France.

Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama was the last in a string of diplomatic upsets between Paris and Beijing since China's crackdown on protests in Tibet last year.


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