Tue, Nov 19, 2013 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan declares ties with the Gambia ‘terminated’

CASH GRAB?Gambian President Yahya Jammeh ‘made a financial request’ in January, said to be for US$10 million in cash, which went against Taiwan’s policy on foreign aid

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

The national flags of 15 of Taiwan’s 22 remaining diplomatic alies fly outside the Diplomatic Quarter in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: David Chang, EPA

The government yesterday declared diplomatic relations with the Gambia had been terminated as it could not accept the country’s “exorbitant demands” for aid, which went against the principles of the nation’s foreign aid policy, Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) said yesterday.

David Lin did not elaborate on what Gambian President Yahya Jammeh had asked for from Taiwan that was deemed “unacceptable,” but in response to a question from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方), he confirmed that Jammeh “made a financial request” in January.

While he did not disclose the figure at yesterday’s meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, which began at 9am, the minister did not deny the lawmaker’s assertion that the request was for more than US$10 million in cash.

Later, when fielding questions from Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Hsu Tain-tsair (許添財), David Lin said Jammeh’s request in January was not in line with the principle that requires all aid resources contributed to diplomatic allies to be implemented “in a project-oriented manner.”

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Shih (石定) announced the severance of relations with the Gambia with immediate effect at 8:45am after a meeting at the Presidential Office called by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

The decision, made in response to Jammeh’s abrupt announcement of a break-off of diplomatic relations on Thursday, was made after a delegation that left for the Gambia late that night to salvage ties had confirmed with Gambian officials that Jammeh’s policy had been finalized, David Lin told the committee.

In Jammeh’s public statements, as well as in his letter to Ma, the Gambian leader said the decision to cut diplomatic relations with Taiwan after 18 years was due to “national strategic interests.”

Taiwan was also told by Gambian officials that they believe “Taiwan doesn’t need Gambia anymore” in view of cross-strait rapprochement and so Gambia decided to “follow its own course,” the ministry said.

Since Jammeh’s decision was announced, Ambassador to Gambia Samuel Chen (陳士良) and the delegation had tried in vain to meet with him to clarify “misunderstandings” he might have about Taiwan, the ministry said.

“The major reason [behind Jammeh’s move] was that he thought that we no longer attach such great importance to [the Gambia] as we did before, but this is not true. We very much valued the relationship,” David Lin said.

David Lin reiterated that the government will continue to press ahead with its policy of “flexible diplomacy,” under which aid is provided to foreign countries based on three principles — justifiable purposes, legal procedures and effective implementation — although it regretted the loss of Banjul as an ally.

In two meetings with Gambian officials, the delegation did not make any offer to try to change Jammeh’s mind, David Lin said.

One day after making the announcement, Jammeh posted on his official Facebook that he saw cutting ties with Taiwan as being in the country’s national interests because he has envisioned that China could help his government to realize its national development agenda — “Vision 2020.”

In the Facebook post, Jammeh said that severing ties with Taiwan was an “important step” toward advancing “Vision 2020” for all citizens of the Gambia.

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