Merkel defies objections to meet Dalai Lama

24th September 2007, Comments 0 comments

24 September 2007, Berlin (dpa) - Chancellor Angela Merkel met the Dalai Lama for a "private exchange of views" in the chancellery in Berlin Sunday, shrugging off objections from Beijing and warnings that German- Chinese relations could be damaged.

24 September 2007


Berlin (dpa) - Chancellor Angela Merkel met the Dalai Lama for a "private exchange of views" in the chancellery in Berlin Sunday, shrugging off objections from Beijing and warnings that German- Chinese relations could be damaged.

Following the hour-long meeting, Merkel said through her official spokesman that she was honoured to have met the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Merkel had pledged to support the Tibetan leader in "his efforts to maintain Tibet's cultural identity and his peaceful efforts for religious and cultural autonomy," spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said.

The Dalai Lama praised Merkel for maintaining "an old friendship."

While the meeting was the first with a serving chancellor, Merkel had met the Dalai Lama as an opposition politician.

Hundreds of supporters were on hand to see the Buddhist leader arrive at the chancellery.

Ahead of the meeting, which was widely publicized in Germany, where the Dalai Lama enjoys strong backing, German analysts predicted there would be an effect on relations with China.

Eberhard Sandschneider of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) queried Merkel's judgement in insisting on the meeting.

"The effects on political, and particularly economic, relations will be noticeable," Sandschneider told commercial news broadcaster n-tv.

"Some things will become more difficult. That is clear," the professor at Berlin's Free University said.

The political aspect of the meeting would be felt in China, Sandschneider said, suggesting that speculation that Merkel had gone against the advice of her foreign policy experts might be correct.

Merkel, herself a pastor's daughter, said she saw the meeting as a "private exchange of views" and the latest in a series of meetings with global religious leaders.

The Chinese government last week condemned the meeting in strong terms and called in the German ambassador in Beijing to inform him of its displeasure.

The Chinese also cancelled at the last minute a discussion on the rule of law that was due to have been held in Munich from Sunday to Tuesday, citing "technical reasons."

German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries and senior Chinese government officials were to have attended.

A spate of attacks on Merkel by Chinese internet users indicated a definite change of mood in Beijing, observers there said.

Previous German chancellors have carefully avoided meeting the Tibetan leader, who has lived in exile in India since 1959, for fear of angering Beijing.

But Merkel has instructed her spokesmen to make clear that she supports the Dalai Lama's call for cultural and religious autonomy for the huge mountainous region in China's far west.

DPA

Subject: German news

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