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China and France resume contacts

Nicolas Sarkozy, left, meets the Dalai Lama in Gdansk, Poland, 6 December 2008
Nicolas Sarkozy angered China when he met the Dalai Lama in December

China and France have agreed to restore high-level contacts, ending a rift that began after French President Nicolas Sarkozy met the Dalai Lama last year.

The announcement by the Chinese foreign ministry came shortly before Mr Sarkozy was to meet President Hu Jintao in London ahead of the G20 summit.

France had agreed not to back Tibetan independence in "any form", it said.

Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, of trying to seek independence from Chinese rule.

Correspondents say that Mr Sarkozy's decision to meet him while France held the EU presidency particularly incensed Chinese leaders, who took the unprecedented step of postponing a joint summit.

'Mutual respect'

A joint statement published on the Chinese foreign ministry's website said an agreement had been reached with France to restore high-level contacts and co-operate on tackling the global economic crisis.

"Both sides reaffirm the high importance of Sino-French relations and are willing to strengthen the all-round strategic partnership on the basis of mutual respect and paying attention to each side's basic interests," it said.

The statement said France "fully understands" the importance and sensitivity of Tibet's status, and recognises that it is "an inseparable part of China".

"On the basis of this spirit and the principle of not interfering in internal affairs, France refuses to support any form of 'Tibet independence'," it added.

"Both sides are willing to strengthen communication and coordination, to jointly deal with the global challenge of the international financial crisis."

There would also be high-level talks at an appropriate time, the statement said. No further details were given.

Mr Sarkozy and Mr Hu are due to hold bilateral talks in London later on Wednesday, a day before attending the G20 summit.



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