China set to beef up ties with Africa

Updated: 2007-09-27 10:50

Foreign ministers of Africa and China launched their first annual talks on Wednesday as Beijing continues to build up sound economic and political relations with the relatively underdeveloped continent.

"China and Africa are good friends, close partners and brothers," Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said as he shook hands and welcomed a long line of his African counterparts to the meeting at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Yang said that China will fulfill its pledge to write off debts, offer tax exemptions and step up development to the continent as part of efforts to boost traditional friendly ties.

"Steps on debt cancellation and tariff exemption will soon be completed," he said, stressing that Chinese-African cooperation was based on "equality and mutual respect."

Yang also said that breakthroughs had been made in cooperation in finance, technology and civil aviation, noting that China-Africa trade hit US$39.3 billion during the January-June period in 2007, chalking up a massive 30 percent year-on-year jump.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit, speaking on behalf of the African nations at the scene, said the Chinese-African relationship was based on a framework of mutual respect "away from sanctions, conditionality and selectivity concepts," which was often pursued by the Western developed powers.

The United States and key European nations punish countries with human rights problems by imposing sanctions and relatively rigid conditions for aid.

Foreign Minister Abul Gheit rejected any notion the African-Chinese forum was blind to the crises in Sudan or Somalia, noting "consensus" on many regional and international issues, including the need to reform the United Nations.

"I don't doubt a moment that the two sides are keen and interested in continuing this consultation and coordination process on all levels and within different regional and international forums," he said.

Yang said China has always treated African nations as equals. China also played an active role in maintaining peace in Africa, citing 1,300 Chinese peacekeepers deployed in seven peacekeeping areas in the continent, he said.

The foreign ministers' meeting is the first since a China-Africa leaders' summit was held in Beijing in November 2006 which unveiled a plan of action to strengthen ties in a broad range of areas. The China-Africa Development Fund has got US$1 billion from the China Development Bank.

China is also building railways and other basic infrastructure in the African continent.

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