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Cross-Straits charter flight talks proposed
By Xing Zhigang (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-01-11 22:28

The mainland yesterday extended a formal invitation to Taiwan for non-governmental talks about direct cross-Straits charter flights during the upcoming Spring Festival.

Pu Zhaozhou, an executive board member of the China Civil Aviation Association, said the invitation was sent yesterday morning to Lo Ta-hsing, chairman of the Taipei Airlines Association.

"We invite him to lead managers of Taiwanese airlines to discuss technical and business details with us at a place suitable to both sides," he told China Daily.

Pu, who also serves as director of the Office of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao Affairs under the General Administration of the Civil Aviation of China, said the talks should be arranged at an early date, since time is running out.

The Chinese Lunar New Year, a traditional festival for family reunions, falls this year on February 9.

"The vital part of the talks is whether the Taiwanese side will agree to allow mainland airlines to run direct charter flights in line with the principle of equity," Pu said.

His invitation came as part of Beijing's latest efforts to push for the launch of two-way non-stop charter flights between the mainland and Taiwan.

Chen Yunlin, minister of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, gave official approval on Monday to such flight arrangements.

Taipei has proposed government talks to facilitate the participation of mainland airlines in a charter programme.

But Chen told a visiting Taiwanese opposition delegation that the talks should be held between industrial associations and airlines across the Straits to pave the way for the charter flight plan.

During the 2003 Spring Festival, six Taiwanese airlines operated 16 indirect charter flights to and from the mainland for the first time since 1949. But all charter planes were required to travel through Hong Kong, and mainland airlines were excluded from taking part in the scheme.

The charter flights were shunned during the 2004 Spring Festival because Taipei continued to exclude the participation of mainland carriers, while insisting on the Hong Kong stopover.

In response to Chen's remarks, Taiwan's "mainland affairs council" said yesterday it had always been prepared to discuss details of the proposed direct flights.

But it reiterated that the negotiations should be conducted in accordance with the "Taiwan-Hong Kong" model, which enables business representatives to negotiate flights under government supervision.

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