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EU aims to lift China arms ban by mid-2005
Updated: 2004-12-19 23:44

The European Union (EU) has confirmed it has an "objective" to lift its 15-year-old arms embargo on China during the first half of next year, a spokesman for the EU's Council of Ministers said on Saturday.

Nicolas Kerlerous, the council's spokesman on EU external relations, security and defence policy, told Xinhua that the EU "has an objective to lift the embargo during the first half of next year" but warned that achieving this objective "can never be guaranteed."

Kerlerous' comment comes in the wake of positive sentiments towards the lift in a conclusions document on the EU leaders' summit which ended on Friday.

The document stated that the leaders "invited the next Presidency (Luxembourg) to finalize the well-balanced work in order to allow for a decision (on revising the EU's Code of Conduct on arms exports)." The Luxembourg presidency runs from January 1 to June 30 2005.

"This is a strong indication (of the EU's intention to work towards lifting the embargo)... And it further proves the 'positive signal' on the arms embargo the EU expressed during the EU-China summit in the Hague," Kerlerous said.

During the EU leaders summit, while the leaders reaffirmed their political will to work towards ending the ban, they stressed that such a lift should not lead to an opening of the floodgates of EU weapons sales to China.

"The result of any decision should not be an increase of arms exports from EU member states to China, neither in quantitative nor qualitative terms," they said in the conclusions document.

The leaders also stressed the importance of the EU Code of Conduct on arms exports, in particular, "criteria regarding human rights, stability and security in the region and the national security of friendly and allied countries."

Premier Wen Jiabao stated earlier in December that China's appeal for a lifting of the arms embargo did not mean China was eager to buy weapons from EU countries. Wen said the arms ban discriminates against China and goes against the Sino-EU strategic partnership which is based on the principles of mutual respect, equality and reciprocity.

The EU enacted its arms embargo on China after the events of June 4, 1989 and its lifting was not considered until it received an airing at the December 2003 EU summit.

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