Sat, Jan 21, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Analysts hail Taiwan's Libya strategy

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

Political analysts said yesterday that President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) recent announcement that Taiwan will exchange representative offices with Libya is a resounding diplomatic victory, since the nation can benefit from Libya's rich oil reserves and its market for Taiwanese exports.

After Chen met on Wednesday with Libya's envoy, Saif Qaddafi, the third son of the Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, the Presidential Office announced on Wednesday that Taiwan and Libya will revitalize ties.

Saif Qaddafi said the delegates accompanying him on this trip were especially interested in promoting exchanges in the fields of oil exploration, technology, trade, security and military affairs.

The new ties with Libya come after another recent diplomatic success with an energy-exporting state, the foreign ministry's project to set up a representative office in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

Lee Deng-ker (李登科), a Middle East and African affairs expert from National Chengchi University, said the government's decision to reestablish ties with Libya was an entirely positive move, and indeed a diplomatic breakthrough -- particularly after Taiwan lost Senegal, which switched diplomatic recognition to China in October last year.

"Compared to Senegal, which is a strong Western African state, Taiwan has more to gain from Libya because of its rich oil and mineral resources. Unlike Senegal, Taiwan doesn't have to offer financial assistance to Libya, as it is rich already. Meanwhile, the cooperative projects the two countries pursue in the future will only guarantee profits for Taiwan," Lee said in a telephone interview.

Lee noted that Libya is a good example of the country's foreign policy strategy of cultivating ties with countries that don't have to rely too much on China, now a major global competitor for energy resources.

In terms of securing energy resources, the revitalization of ties with Libya corresponds to the government's policy to increase and diversify its oil supplies.

In addition, the oil-rich country also has a potential consumer market which could attract many Taiwanese exports such as consumer goods, high-tech and industrial products, Lee said.

Although Libya is widely perceived as being unfriendly toward the West, it has in recent years begun to normalize relations with the West. The UN lifted sanctions against Libya imposed in 1992, after it was blamed for being involved in bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, Liu Bi-rong (劉必榮), a political-science professor at Soochow University said.

Qaddafi was one of the first Arab leader to send their condolences to the US and condemn terrorism after the Sep. 11 attacks. The US re-opened its liaison office in Tripoli in June 2004, and the US is currently the largest source of foreign direct investment in Libya.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) said that ties with Libya would benefit the country.

"China now is going everywhere in the world to get energy resources, particularly the Middle East. If Taiwan can make diplomatic advances with Libya and Libya is interested in developing ties with Taiwan, that deserves the people's support because it is a good thing," Chen said.

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