China called on Tuesday for France to make concerted efforts to get soured bilateral relations back on track.
"We hope the French can attach great importance to the core concerns of China", Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a routine press conference, urging France to make "effective" and "positive" measures to collaborate with China to get bilateral relations back on track at an early date.
Jiang's remarks came in response to a question about former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin's ongoing visit to China. Raffarin and his delegation were scheduled to visit the country from Feb. 8 to 14 at the invitation of the Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs.
France hopes to ease tensions on Sino-French ties and work with China to meet the challenge of the global financial crisis, Raffarin told a symposium marking the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties on Monday.
According to Jiang Yu, Raffarin has met with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Hui and deputy head of the International Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee Zhang Zhijun.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao met with Raffarin on Tuesday afternoon, Jiang added.
Relations between the two countries hit a low after French President Nicolas Sarkozy held a private meeting with the Dalai Lama last year in Poland, China postponed the 11th China-EU Summit and lodged a strong protest against the meeting, saying it "severely undermined China's core interests."
"We should realize how serious is the cancellation of the 11th EU-China Summit concerning the current financial crisis," said Raffarin at the symposium.
"Premier Wen's European visit didn't include France, and the French government has paid great attention to China's signals," he said, noting that France fully understands China's concern over stability and reunification and will try to figure out the significance of China's signals.
Raffarin has visited China many times. His last visit was paid during the Beijing Olympic Games accompanying Sarkozy.
Jiang expressed appreciation for Raffarin's contribution to promoting friendship between the two countries, calling the former prime minister "an old friend of the Chinese people".
"Under the current circumstance, we believe Raffarin's visit will be conducive to promoting mutual understanding", Jiang said.
"We always highly values ties with France and believe the sound and healthy development of Sino-France relations will not only serve the common interests of the two countries, but also aid the peace and stability of the world", the spokeswoman stressed.
(Xinhua News Agency February 11, 2009)