Taiwan and China yesterday hammered out a landmark agreement on non-stop charter flights for the Lunar New Year holiday, a move hailed by some as the biggest breakthrough in cross-strait relations in years.
"The agreement will have a significant, positive impact upon cross-strait relations," Mainland Affairs Council Vice Chairman Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) said yesterday.
The agreement ushers in the first "direct" cross-strait flights since air links were terminated after the Civil War ended in 1949. The successful talks may serve as a departure point toward thawed relations between Taiwan and China, the council said.
"This round of talks sets a good example for cross-strait negotiations. Now both Taiwan and China are weighing the possibility of a `Macau model' for further delegates to follow," Chiu said.
During the meeting in Macau, the negotiators decided that a total of 48 flights will take off from Jan. 29 to Feb. 20.
The flights will travel to and from Taipei and Kaohsiung and the Chinese cities of Bejing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Six Taiwanese airlines and six Chinese carriers will be authorized to take Taiwanese businesspeople home.
Both sides expressed satisfaction with the progress, and said they were confident they could settle remaining undecided technical affairs soon.
"There is no difficulty. We solved everything very quickly," Billy Chang (
"In a very short time, in a cordial atmosphere, we have come to an agreement," Pu Zhaozhou (
As the final agreement mapped out the available routes, domestic air carriers are now vying to get their share of the flights.
China Airlines Corp (
Meanwhile, all six carriers also expressed their interest in flights to and from Shanghai, which has a large population of Taiwanese businesspeople. EVA Airways Corp (
Smaller carriers also declared their preferences. Mandarin Airlines Corp (
In 2003, Taiwan and China instituted Lunar New Year flights from Shanghai to Taipei to take Taiwanese working in China home, with stops in Hong Kong or Macau.
There were no such flights last year.