Steinmeier calls for open dialogue in China, visits quake-hit area

16th June 2008, Comments 0 comments

German minister calls for openness between China and Germany, praises an improvement in relations

Chongqing, China -- German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for open dialogue between the state and civil society at the end of his trip to China on Sunday .

This included the willingness and ability to criticise, Steinmeier said at the opening of an urban development conference in the megacity of Chongqing.

Common responsibility worked best when the two parties were open towards each other and other countries. "Openness creates trust," he said, adding that politics should not only limit criticism.

Steinmeier on Sunday visited the earthquake-affected area in the south-west of the country.

"The situation is dramatic," a visibly shocked Steinmeier said at a camp in the area. It was not possible to imagine from a distance what shock the country had gone through in the wake of the earthquake, the German minister said.

The quake on May 12th claimed more than 70,000 lives.

Steinmeier visited the cities of Chengdou and Dujiangyan in the earthquake-hit region to discuss the work of German aid organisations. He said he was pleased that German relief for the victims had arrived so quickly.

Germany is to assist in the reconstruction of eight schools.

The German Red Cross has already set up a field hospital funded by the German Foreign Office to the tune of more than 1 million euros.

Steinmeier told the conference in Chongqing that globalisation requires new policies. "Not just between centres of power in a multipolar world, but also between the state and civil society," he added.

The conference considered the challenges of growing urbanisation in China. It was part of a series of events under the theme "Germany and China - Together in motion" that has been ongoing since autumn 2007.

Steinmeier welcomed developments in Sino-German relations, saying a "complete normalisation" had come about.

His three-day visit to China which began on Friday came after a period of frosty relations between Berlin and Beijing after Chancellor Angela Merkel received the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in September 2007.

Steinmeier's Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi announced on Friday that the two countries aimed to resume their dialogue on human rights issues after meeting the German minister in Beijing.

Yang said the dialogue would resume in the second half of this year.

In a further indication of an improvement in the bilateral situation, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao thanked Germany for its earthquake relief aid amounting to some 20 million euros and called Germany "a true friend in need."

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