President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday defended the nation’s diplomatic ties with Sao Tome and Principe in the wake of the recent severing of ties with the Gambia, seeking to reassure the public that relations with its African allies remain solid.
“The relations between San Tome and Principe and the Republic of China [ROC] are very good. We are grateful to Sao Tome for speaking for us at international events and supporting our participation in international organizations,” he said.
Ma made the remarks while accepting a letter of credence from new Sao Tomean Ambassador Antonio Quintas do Espirito Santo at the Presidential Office.
Sao Tome and Principe is one of the nation’s three allies in Africa. The number of Taiwan’s allies dropped to 22 after the Gambia ended diplomatic ties last week.
The meeting between Ma and Quintas comes at a sensitive time, following Sao Tome’s signing of an agreement with China to open a trade mission there and the diplomatic setback with the Gambia.
Ma yesterday defended Taiwan’s cooperation projects with Sao Tome since the two countries established ties in 1997, including a project to combat malaria and promote agricultural skills and information technology.
He also lauded Quintas for his rich political experience, and said his posting in Taiwan shows that Sao Tome values the relations between the two countries.
Ma also expressed hope that he would be able to visit Sao Tome, which he missed during his diplomatic trip to Africa in April last year because Sao Tomean President Manuel Pinto da Costa was abroad at the time.
Later when meeting with Sao Tomean Minister of Foreign Affairs Natalia Pedro da Costa Umbelina Neto, Ma said Taipei Medical University plans to set up a medical and public health center in Africa to help improve medical and public health standards.