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Solana: EU may lift arms ban on China early next year
By Hu Qihua (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-12-09 01:12

The European Union says it is willing to work towards lifting the arms embargo on China, president of the European Council Jan Peter Balkenende has said.

EU President Jose Manuel Barroso (L), China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende (R) are seen during a press conference at the end of the China-EU summit in The Hague December 8, 2004.[Reuters]
Netherlands Prime Minister Balkenende, who holds the 25-nation bloc's rotating presidency, confirmed that work to strengthen the application of the EU Code of Conduct on arms exports was continuing.

"China welcomes this positive signal," said Premier Wen Jiabao, adding it is beneficial to the sound development of the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two sides and would not harm the interests of any other third party.

In a joint statement released after the summit, China reaffirmed that the EU arms embargo against China is a "political discrimination" and is "not acceptable" and should be "immediately removed."

Javier Solana, high representative for the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy, told France's Europe 1 radio that the embargo might be removed in the first six months of next year.

Both China and the EU agreed to continue consultations on this issue, says the statement.

Mutual respect and trust, equality and reciprocity constitute the basis of Sino-EU relations, said Wen after the summit at The Hague.

Yesterday's two-and-a-half-hour meeting covered all the essential areas of a modern partnership, from security issues such as non-proliferation and the fight against terrorism, to trade and economic co-operation, science and technology and the environment, and human rights dialogue.

Market economy

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao wears an EU pin at the start of the China-EU summit in The Hague [Reuters]
Turning to China's request to the EU to be granted full market economy status, Balkenende told Wen the EU side welcomed the positive orientation of China towards a market economy.

The EU would work towards resolving China's concerns on this issue, according to a source from the Chinese foreign ministry, who also revealed a joint working group has recently held its first meeting to discuss progress in solving this issue.

China and the EU also signed a joint declaration on non-proliferation and arms control, which is the "framework for an EU-China strategic partnership on non-proliferation."

The declaration gives particular focus to the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1540 on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; promotion of and compliance with all non-proliferation and disarmament treaties; other international agreements and additional protocols; and strengthening export controls on WMD (weapons of mass destruction)-related materials, equipment and technologies, as well as of conventional weapons.

Asia-based observers believe China and the EU, as important forces in international security, have shown the will to play a positive role in promoting the process.

"China bears significant responsibility for the maintenance of international and regional peace and stability," Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui said in Beijing before the summit, adding that as a responsible country, China will expand its co-ordination with the EU in the field.

Seven agreements

Besides the declaration, the two sides also inked another seven agreements on enhancing co-operation in various fields, including customs, peaceful use of nuclear energy, financing, science and technology, social security reform and personnel exchanges.

Wen raised a series of suggestions covering political, economic and cultural fields, when discussing the development of relations.

He also said China and the EU would actively explore the feasibility of concluding a new EU-China framework agreement.

Before the summit, President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso said the EU is at a dynamic moment in its relationship with China.

"Developing this relationship will be one of our top foreign policy objectives in the years to come," he said.

Premier Wen also recognized the various differences between the two sides, and that this was natural. He said China and European countries have no fundamental conflict of interests but share common views on many major international issues and could supplement each other in economy.

Wen will make a keynote speech today at the China-EU Business Summit, where more than 500 influential political and business leaders from both sides will gather to discuss key business topics.

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