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Up to Sarkozy to get ties back on track
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It is up to French President Nicolas Sarkozy to put Sino-French relations back on track, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.

France holds the rotating presidency of the European Union (EU) till the end of this year. And since Sarkozy is the president of that country, his decision to meet with the Dalai Lama in Poland on Saturday forced China to defer the China-EU meeting, scheduled for Monday.

"The French president, who ignored China's concern, should be fully responsible (for the downturn in bilateral relations)," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a regular briefing.

"This is the time for France to make an important decision and we hope it will create conditions for advancing China's relations with the EU and France," he said.

No likely date has been chosen for the meeting, and Liu said it can only be held "in a proper atmosphere", for which France must take "pressing measures".

Despite China's opposition, Sarkozy will go ahead with his meeting with the Dalai Lama, said Feng Zhongping, director of European studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.

Sarkozy had angered Chinese earlier, too, by hinting that he might not attend the Beijing Olympic Games Opening Ceremony over the Tibet policy.

"Sino-French relations are likely to sour further," Feng said. The 11th China-EU meeting, an annual event, could eventually be cancelled because there are just four more weeks left in the year, during which it would be hard to find a date for the meeting.

The 12th China-EU meeting has already been allotted to the Czech Republic, which takes over the EU presidency next year.

China's decision to defer the meeting was taken "after thoughtful deliberation", Feng said. There could have been a chain effect had it not done so because some other European leaders, too, want to meet with the Dalai Lama.

"Pulling out of the meeting is sending a message to other countries to respect China's core interests," Feng said.

Deteriorating Sino-French ties are bothering Europeans in China.

The EU Chamber of Commerce in China said it was "disappointed that in time of global financial turmoil and a significant economic slowdown the Chinese leadership decided to postpone the EU-China meeting".

Wu Baiyi, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, suggested France should first focus on how to get out of the financial turmoil.

"They (China and France) should first clarify what they want to do." But, Wu said, Sarkozy's decision to meet the Dalai Lama is an example of being "irresponsible to his own people".

 (Xinhua News Agency December 3, 2008)
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