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Beijing moves to expand flights with Taiwan
By Xing Zhigang (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-02-26 01:57

Beijing on Friday pledged to expand cross-Straits charter flights while offering greater access to agricultural products from Taiwan.

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing. [AFP]
The government also agreed to consider launching cargo charters to Taiwan and allow Taiwanese airlines to use the mainland's international flight routes to Europe.

These economic offers came despite officials' warning of a "grave cross-Straits situation" at a regular press conference held by the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.

"We will exert our greatest efforts as long as these things benefit our Taiwan compatriots," said Li Weiyi, spokesman of the office.

Tang Yi, deputy director of the office's Economic Bureau, proposed talks on non-stop charter flights to cover more holidays or even regular charter flights between the two sides.

"We hope airlines from both sides of the Straits can reach a consensus on launching charter flights for the Qingming Festival and other traditional Chinese festivals as soon as possible," he told reporters.

"We also hope that charter flights can be operated in all major holidays and regular passenger flights can be run to link main mainland areas, where Taiwanese business people live, with major cities on the island."

The Qingming Festival, or Tomb Sweeping Day, which falls on April 5, is a traditional holiday when people of Chinese ancestry cherish the memory of the dead or worship their forefathers.

The call by the mainland followed 48 successful non-stop round-trip charter flights across the Straits between January 29 and February 20 during the Chinese Lunar New Year.

Twelve mainland and Taiwanese airlines participated in the historic programme - a first in 56 years - and carried 10,771 mainland-based Taiwan business people and their families.

For decades, Taipei has maintained a ban on direct transport links with the mainland.

Tang stressed that passengers for future charter flights should not be confined only to Taiwan business people and their families, but include all people with legal permits.

Beijing is also ready to discuss the establishment of cross-Straits cargo charter services with Taiwanese airline associations, he said.

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