Fri, Jan 07, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Minister upset over summit ban

OUT IN THE COLD Mark Chen was unhappy that the aid the government and the public has pledged has not been matched with respectful treatment in Jakarta

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN TAOYUAN

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen speaks at a ceremony marking the airlift of relief materials collected under the ``Love from Taiwan, Relief for South Asia'' program at the Lien Chan Transport Corp in Taoyuan yesterday.

PHOTO: TONY YAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) expressed regret yesterday at Taiwan's exclusion from the tsunami aid summit in Jakarta, saying that pressure from China had led to Taiwan being left out of the event.

Hosting a ceremony marking the airlift of relief materials collected by the "Love from Taiwan, Relief for South Asia" appeal at the Lien Chan Transport Corp in Taoyuan yesterday, Chen said the government had used "all kinds of channels" in an attempt to convince summit organizers that Taiwan was entitled to take part.

"We have contacted the Indonesian president, vice president and foreign minister expressing our desire to join the summit. They replied that participants of the meeting are mainly ASEAN member states, though ASEAN also invited other countries such as China and Japan to the summit," he told reporters.

Chen had even instructed Taiwan's representative office in Washington to seek US support for Taiwan's participation.

"The US said we should join the meeting and promised to help us with this matter. But it didn't work out," Chen said.

The summit is also preventing representatives of Taiwan's NGOs from attending.

"I think this is because of pressure from China. It's a very regrettable matter. We donate so much money but are excluded from the summit," Chen added.

The government has pledged US$50 million in aid for tsunami-hit countries, while the public has donated more than US$7 million as of yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Chen said Taiwan would seek to hold bilateral talks with countries participating in the emergency summit to facilitate cooperation in relief efforts and the delivery of aid to affected areas.

Indonesia's representative in Taipei, Ferry Yahya, who attended yesterday's ceremony, said his country and ASEAN had tried very hard to support "the importance and experience of Taiwan."

"But unfortunately, this [the summit] is under the UN format. Taiwan is not a member of the UN. This is a very difficult position in our government to [let] Taiwan attend the tsunami summit," Yahya said.

But when UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was asked during a press conference in Jakarta by a Taiwanese reporter yesterday why Taiwan was barred from the summit, he said "the question should be directed to summit organizers rather than the UN."

Yahya said that Taiwan and Indonesia already have a joint working group helping his countrymen in devastated areas.

Chen and a number of government officials, including Department of Health director-general Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) and Environmental Protection Administration head Chang Juu-en (張祖恩), observed a minute's silence together with members of 16 Taiwanese NGOs at the ceremony in honor of the tsunami victims.

About 60 tonnes of aid were delivered to the location of yesterday's ceremony. Yahya and Sampom Maneenaitreejit, director of the tourism division of the Thailand Trade and Economic Office in Taipei, represented their governments in receiving the aid.

"To date, medical equipment, emergency medicines and goods, and utilities donated by the government and many civic groups have amounted to 7,344 boxes of goods, weighing over 60 tonnes in all," Chen said.

He said the international community had lent Taiwan a generous helping hand after the 921 Earthquake in 1999, which devastated central Taiwan and killed nearly 3,000 people.

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