Paris mayor seeks to defuse Tibet row with China

9th June 2009, Comments 0 comments

Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe is aiming to defuse tension with china over his weekend meeting with the Dalai Lama.

Paris – Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe on Monday sought to defuse tensions with China over his weekend meeting with the Dalai Lama, saying his city government was not shaping French foreign policy.

Beijing strongly condemned Paris authorities for making the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader an honorary citizen, saying it was a "grave interference" in Sino-French ties.

"I don't want to disregard the reaction of the Chinese leadership," Delanoe told reporters. "I was slightly expecting this reaction."

"Paris must be on the side of values, but Paris does not decide France's foreign policy," said Delanoe, who is a prominent member of France's opposition Socialist Party.

The Dalai Lama was made an honorary citizen of the French capital on Sunday following a March 2008 decision by the city's council to award him the title.

France and China had only just patched up ties after President Nicolas Sarkozy incurred the wrath of Chinese leaders for meeting the Dalai Lama in Poland in December, leading them to cancel a key EU-China summit.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of seeking independence for Tibet -- a claim he denies -- and regards any official meeting with him as meddling in its internal affairs.

After the Chinese foreign ministry issued a strongly-worded statement, Delanoe struck a conciliatory tone and sought to downplay the importance of a city-level decision.

"I have never been in favour of Tibet's independence and I am not a Buddhist," said the mayor. "I defend positions that reflect Paris' values and my deep convictions. I do not claim to run the world."

Delanoe said he had not come under pressure from the French president's office or the foreign ministry to cancel the meeting with the Dalai Lama.

"We oppose Paris' disregard of the Chinese side, express strong dissatisfaction and firmly oppose its determination to grant the Dalai with the so-called title of 'honorary citizen'," China's foreign ministry said Monday.

But Beijing acknowledged that relations with France had recently improved thanks to efforts on both sides.

"We ask Paris to stop any acts of interference in China's internal affairs, to adopt effective measures, immediately rectify its mistake, and avoid going too far on the wrong path," it said.

The Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India since 1959, when China took full control of Tibet, began a European tour in Denmark last Friday and has also visited Iceland and the Netherlands.

AFP / Expatica

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