Thu, Jan 13, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Optimism rising over cross-strait flight agreement

By Ko Shu-ling and Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Because Taiwan and China had reached a consensus on negotiating terms for direct charter flights during the Lunar New Year holiday, technical problems would be ironed out with further talks, the Cabinet said yesterday.

"I believe that practical negotiations over direct charter flights for Lunar New Year will bear fruit, and that both sides will eventually hammer out a mutually acceptable solution," Cabinet Spokesman Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said.

"Our stance on the matter is clear, and that's mutual respect and practical negotiations," he said.

The Mainland Affairs Council has organized for the Taipei Airlines Association (TAA) to represent the government in negotiations with Beijing.

Because the China Civil Aviation Association had sent a letter to the head of the TAA inviting him to discuss details of any agreement, Chen said he felt that Beijing would not use the status of the negotiators to oppose the flights.

Chen was speaking yesterday morning after China demanded that government officials be banned from attending the talks between aviation authorities.

This year, one of the TAA board members is Billy Chang (張國政), who also serves as director-general of the Civil Aeronautics Administration.

When asked to describe the status of this year's TAA negotiators, Chen said they were "entrusted by the government to act as representatives in negotiating the matter."

Unchanged

Chen also affirmed the government's principles for negotiation and said that they were still in force.

"We adopted the `two-way, multiple-destination and non-stop' principles for charter flights for the Lunar New Year holiday in November, and this has remained in place unchanged since then," he said.

"Basically, what the Chinese government proposes is similar to what we have initiated. Even if there are differences, both sides should sit down and talk about them," he said.

China has ruled out the participation of Taiwan's cross-strait officials in negotiating direct flights, saying both sides' airlines could settle on the precise details themselves.

Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office yesterday held a press conference explaining its position.

"It is inappropriate for officials from Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council and the Straits Exchange Foundation to join negotiations," said He Shizhong (何世忠), director of the office's section for economic affairs.

Rejecting Taiwan's appeal for official negotiations, He said the request was "unrealistic."

But He did not indicate that officials from other government agencies would be prevented from joining negotiations.

Model

The Mainland Affairs Council has insisted that talks be based on the negotiating model for an aviation agreement between Taiwan and Hong Kong in 2002, in which the TAA headed a delegation composed of aviation leaders, council officials and Civil Aeronautics Administration personnel acting as advisors.

Asked by reporters whether Billy Chang could join the negotiations as an advisor, He said, "we can communicate on this," without elaborating.

He said that these direct flights had nothing to do with any previous air-transportation agreements.

"The flights are a special arrangement made to facilitate trips home for the large number of China-based Taiwanese businessmen and compatriots for the Lunar New Year," he said.

The airlines could communicate on technical problems and details of the flights without government involvement, he said.

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