France attempts to soothe relations with China

25th April 2008, Comments 0 comments

The president stresses Tibet must remain part of China while top envoys meet Chinese leaders in Beijing to defuse diplomatic tensions.

25 April 2008

PARIS - French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Thursday he was "shocked" by the deadly unrest in Tibet and called on China to give greater autonomy to the mountainous province.

"I cannot accept what happened in Tibet. I was shocked by what happened in Tibet and I said so to the Chinese president," Sarkozy said in a primetime television interview.

Sarkozy argued that "the province of Tibet needs to have greater autonomy," but also stressed that Tibet must remain part of China.

Top level French envoys were in Beijing Thursday to meet Chinese leaders as part of efforts to defuse diplomatic tensions linked to Tibet and the Beijing Olympics, which peaked at the weekend when protesters picketed Chinese branches of French supermarket giant Carrefour.

Protestors were angered by perceived Western bias in the coverage of China's crackdown in Tibet, Sarkozy's threat to stay away from the Olympic opening ceremony, and protests during the Paris leg of the Olympic torch relay.

Sarkozy said he had not yet decided whether to attend the 8 August opening ceremony in Beijing, and that as holder of the rotating EU presidency he would do everything to find a common European position.

The French government has distanced itself from the Paris city council's decision to make exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, an honorary citizen of the capital, a move that incensed Beijing.

Sarkozy repeated that France was "trying to create the conditions for a dialogue between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese authorities," he said, adding that "there are still four months to succeed" until the Beijing Olympics.

He also spoke out against the mounting criticism of China's rights record in the build-up to the Olympic Games.

"I do not want to see China excluded from the concert of nations," Sarkozy said. "China is helping the world in the Darfur crisis... it is trying to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons."

[AFP / Expatica]

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