EU chief calls for end to France-China rift

15th January 2009, Comments 0 comments

The EU ambassador describes the frayed relations between China and France as unhealthy.

BEIJING – The EU's ambassador to China called Thursday for a quick end to a rift between the Asian giant and France, describing the row over the French president meeting the Dalai Lama as unhealthy for Europe.

"In spite of the fact that there is no one single problem between the EU institutions and China... it's not very healthy that one important member state has a problem with China," Serge Abou told reporters.

"We wish that this situation will come back to normal as soon as possible," he said at a press conference organised by the embassy of the Czech Republic, which has just taken over the presidency of the European Union.

Relations between France and China have been frayed since French President Nicolas Sarkozy held talks with Tibet's exiled spiritual leader in December.

China opposes any leaders holding talks with the Dalai Lama, but took unusually strong action over Sarkozy's meeting by postponing a high profile summit with the EU.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of seeking independence for Tibet, a claim he denies.
China has ruled Tibet since 1951, after sending in troops to "liberate" the Himalayan region the previous year.

Abou stressed it was not his responsibility as head of the European Commission delegation in China, or that of other member states, to mend ties.

"But we do not consider that this situation is fully satisfactory," he said.

Abou did not elaborate on whether the EU-China summit would take place again soon, but said he was confident other high-level meetings would happen.

Vitezslav Grepl, the Czech ambassador to China, meanwhile, said the Dalai Lama was a respected religious figure for many Europeans, adding that when leaders met with him it was akin to meeting with the Pope.

He said this was an issue that should not be politicised, but understood China's concern. "We understand that this is an extremely sensitive matter for the Chinese nation and for the Chinese government, so in our presidency we shall act accordingly to these events," Grepl told reporters.

He did not elaborate other than to say he had not received any information that the Dalai Lama, who visited the Czech Republic in December, would make another trip to the country during its six-month EU presidency.

[AFP / Expatica]

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