Sarkozy and Hu bury hatchet in Beijing talks

28th April 2010, Comments 0 comments

France and China on Wednesday pledged to draw a line under past tensions over Tibet and breathe new life into their relationship by working together on issues from Iran to global monetary policy.

President Nicolas Sarkozy and his host Hu Jintao made the comments following talks in Beijing that signalled they had moved past the Tibet row, which peaked when Sarkozy met the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, in 2008.

In a joint appearance before the media after their meeting, Hu said Sarkozy's second state visit to China had "opened a new page" in their relations.

"We should hold close consultations and strengthen political coordination on the reform of the international monetary system", climate change and other major issues, state television quoted Hu saying in their closed-door talks.

The French leader told journalists the pair had held "in-depth discussions about the Iranian crisis and the G20" and also said the two sides would work together on global monetary reform.

The West has sought Chinese support for tough action on Tehran over its nuclear programme, which some suspect is a cover to develop atomic weapons, and the issue was expected to be high on Sarkozy's agenda.

Beijing has been reluctant to punish Iran, a major trading partner and source of oil, but US Vice President Joe Biden said last week China would back new sanctions, predicting they could be agreed within days.

Sarkozy pledged France would work with China -- which has sought greater say for developing countries in world financial affairs -- for a new multipolar system when it assumes the rotating leadership of the G20 from November.

"We are going to prepare the French presidency of the G20 well in advance by thinking about a new multipolar monetary order," he told reporters at the Great Hall of the People.

He also refrained from adding to pressure on China over the value of its currency, which critics including the United States say is kept artificially low to boost Chinese exports at the expense of those from other countries.

"France's belief is that it is totally unproductive to make accusations against one another. It is far more intelligent to prepare the necessary evolution of the monetary system in the 21st century," he said.

"We are going to think and work together."

Relations nose-dived in March 2008, just four months after Sarkozy's first state trip to China, when he expressed shock at the security crackdown in the Chinese-ruled region after protests there led to deadly violence.

A month later, the Chinese leadership was incensed when pro-Tibetan demonstrators booed and jostled the Olympic flame as it was carried through Paris on its way to the Beijing Games.

Tensions peaked with Sarkozy's December 2008 audience with the Dalai Lama -- whom Beijing accuses of seeking independence for his homeland -- before easing when Sarkozy met Hu at a G20 summit last year.

Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy began the three-day visit with a brief stop in the ancient capital of Xian, where the couple visited the city's terracotta warriors.

The French leader, whose delegation includes several senior ministers, will also meet Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing before heading to Shanghai on Friday for the start of the World Expo, where he will inaugurate the French pavilion.

"China has become an absolutely indispensable actor on the world stage," Sarkozy told China's state Xinhua news agency in an interview published Wednesday.

"Today, there is not one major issue that we can handle without you."

The French president will mix politics with sightseeing during the trip, with scheduled visits to the Great Wall, the Ming Tombs and the Forbidden City.

Agreements on ecology, higher education and the creation of new businesses are to be signed during Sarkozy's visit, according to French officials.

Hu is scheduled to make a state visit to France later this year.

© 2010 AFP

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