Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) left for a secret visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Thursday to extend condolences on the death of the country's vice president and prime minister, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) confirmed yesterday.
Chen's visit was unusual due to the absence of diplomatic relations between Taiwan and the UAE. The foreign minister paid several visits to the UAE last year to discuss an ongoing project to open a new representative office in Abu Dhabi, the UAE's capital.
Currently, Taipei maintains a commercial office in Dubai.
A foreign ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that Chen left for the UAE on Thursday afternoon, one day after the UAE's prime minister Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al-Maktoum died.
In addition to offering condolences on the death of the prime minister, Chen also relayed congratulations to General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the younger brother of the late Sheikh Maktoum.
Sheikh Mohammed will succeed his brother, taking over as ruler of the Gulf Arab Emirate of Dubai, vice president and prime minister.
The official said Chen's visit was a good opportunity for Taiwan to strengthen ties with the small oil-rich Middle Eastern country.
Chen earlier said one of the foreign ministry's ongoing projects is to re-develop ties with countries in the Middle East.
Taiwan lost diplomatic relations with Middle Eastern countries in the 1970s when its representation in the UN was replaced by China.
A major breakthrough in relations with Middle Eastern nations came when Chen visited the UAE in April.
Following that trip, the director of Taiwan's Chinese Petroleum Corporation, Kuo Chin-tsai (郭進財), visited the UAE in May and signed a letter of intent with the local petroleum companies for a mutual cooperation project.
* Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen left for the UAE on Thursday to express condolences for the death of the country's prime minister.
* Taiwan does not have official ties with the UAE.
* Currently, Taiwan maintains a commercial office in Dubai.
* Relations with the UAE have improved this year, with a letter of intent signed in May regarding cooperation between it and local petroleum companies.
* President Chen Shui-bian also made a transit stop in the UAE in September.
In September, President Chen Shui-bian (
Mark Chen is scheduled to return to Taiwan Monday afternoon.