Wed, Jul 08, 2009 - Page 3 News List

MOFA denies making ultimatum

‘THIS WAS NOT A THREAT’Taipei said it followed diplomatic practice when it told the Ortega administration that its many snubs of President Ma could affect bilateral relations

By Jenny W. hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied yesterday it threatened to withdraw funds from a cooperative project in exchange for a public apology from Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega after he twice snubbed President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) during his trip to Latin America last week.

It was widely reported that under Ma’s instructions, Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) issued an ultimatum to Ortega, threatening to suspend a US$2 million (NT$65 million) project to build a business center unless the leftist Sandinista leader apologized publicly to Ma for leaving him out in the cold on five occasions, including three times last month.

“This was not a threat. It was simply letting Nicaragua know how their actions might influence our bilateral relations, which could also affect any future joint ventures,” ministry spokesman Henry Chen (陳銘政) said, adding that the ministry had conducted itself in a professional manner in line with international diplomatic protocol.

Chen said the Ma administration did not engage in “dollar diplomacy” — showering allies with money to maintain ties — and that all financial aid must be conducted in an open and transparent manner.

Lu Yi-cheng (陸以正), a retired senior diplomat, joined the chorus in chiding the foreign ministry for failing to safeguard Taiwan’s dignity after the president was stood up.

In an op-ed piece, the former ambassador to Guatemala wrote that Ortega did his part by apologizing, but that someone at the ministry should be held accountable for the foul-ups.

Ou also reportedly told the media that “if anything went wrong with the visit, it would be all my fault.”

Defending his boss, Chen said Ou wasted no time and lodged a protest when Ortega failed to show up, adding that “the minister protected the nation’s dignity perfectly.”

While the ministry defended Ambassador to Nicaragua Wu Chin-mu (吳進木) and said he “did nothing wrong,” it was nevertheless considering his resignation.

This is his choice, the ministry said, not something that is related to his job performance.

“Ortega is a strong-minded man. He likes to be involved in every matter. Think about it, if everything has to go through the president, mistakes are bound to happen,” he said, adding that Wu did everything required as ambassador in securing the Ma-Ortega meeting.

In related news, Chen confirmed that Taiwan would not consider recalling its ambassador to Honduras.

Several countries, including EU countries such as France and Spain, have recalled their ambassadors in protest against the coup that ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, who is currently in exile in Nicaragua.

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