Sun, Apr 05, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Ou met El Salvador president: MOFA

FUNES’ PRAGMATISMWhile it would not mind El Salvador having closer economic relations with China, MOFA said it would oppose any move toward diplomatic ties

By Jenny W. hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday confirmed that Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) met El Salvador president-elect Mauricio Funes, but did not provide details about the meeting.

“It was a closed-door meeting. But as far as details go, I don’t know much,” MOFA spokesman Henry Chen (陳銘政) said.

Central News Agency reported Ou as describing Funes as “very cordial and friendly.” It said the president-elect had thanked the Republic of China (ROC) government for its long-term support and vowed he would not govern based on political ideology but rather in the overall interests of the country.

The report said that during the meeting, Funes recalled that during his first term in office, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega had sought to break relations with Taiwan, but that during his second term he had decided to maintain relations.

During the trip, Ou also met outgoing president Elias Antonio Saca Gonzalez and foreign minister Marisol Argueta de Barillas, as well as senior Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) members, CNA said.

Chen said that the purpose of Ou’s visit to Latin America was to consolidate the 68-year friendship between Taiwan and the Central American ally, to express gratitude to the incumbent government and to reaffirm Taiwan’s commitment to bilateral cooperation.

Asked if Ou had sought assurances from Funes that El Salvador would maintain relations with Taiwan after taking office in June, Chen said: “[that topic] most likely came up, but it will be further discussed once he [Funes] becomes president.”

A former journalist who led the leftist rebel-group-turned political party FMLN to victory, Funes said during his campaign that he was interested in having closer trade ties with China, given its immense market.

His comments sparked jitters in Taiwanese diplomatic circles and rumors that Funes was considering cutting ties with Taipei in favor of Beijing.

The ministry said that while it did not mind El Salvador developing closer economic ties with China, it did not want El Salvador to abandon Taiwan as a diplomatic ally.

The ministry has said that ties with El Salvador tie remain solid and that it would keep communication lines open with the Funes administration to explain Taiwan’s commitment to the welfare of Salvadorans.

At the Foreign and National Defense Committee last month, Ou said the ministry was strongly in favor of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) personally heading the delegation to attend Funes’ inauguration on June 1.

The ministry and the Presidential Office have yet to provide details on the delegation.

Ou is scheduled to return to Taipei on Tuesday.

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