Representative office in Belarus closed by MOFA

ANTAGONISM: The representative office was closed largely due to Belarus' open opposition to Taiwan's participation in international bodies

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wed, Jan 04, 2006 - Page 2

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday announced that it has decided to close the nation's representative office in Belarus, citing the former communist country's opposition to Taiwan's bids to participate in international bodies such as the UN and the World Health Organization (WHO).

MOFA Spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said yesterday that the Taipei Economic and Trade Mission in Minsk, Taiwan's de facto embassy in Belarus, will be closed with immediate effect, due to its political and economic ineffectiveness.

The function of the Belarus representative office will be taken over by the Russian representative office in Moscow.

One of the main reasons for the closure of the mission, Lu said, was Belarus' opposition to Taiwan's bids to join the UN and WHO.

"When Taiwan establishes a representative office in a non-allied country, we hope this country will not oppose Taiwan's international participation, even if it cannot openly voice support for the nation's entry to the UN and WHO," Lu said. "Belarus did not avoid the issue. It went along with China in openly opposing Taiwan's bids to join the UN and WHO. This is one of the most important reasons why we shut down the mission office there," he said.

Taiwan and Belarus reached a mutual agreement in 1996 to establish economic and trade offices in each other's territoties. Taiwan went ahead and opened its economic and trade office in Minsk. However, Belarus has not opened an office in Taiwan.

Lu said yesterday that the annual bilateral trade volume between Taiwan and Belarus ranged between US$20 million and US$30 million, which was an insignificant amount to Taiwan's economy.

"Improvement on mutual relations was limited. That's why we decided to close down the representative office," the spokesman said.

Lu said that the ministry evaluates the performance of all of its representative offices in non-allied countries.

In addition to mutual economic, trade and personnel exchanges, these countries' stance on Taiwan's international participation is a major consideration in gauging whether it is necessary to maintain the operation of the mission.