AFP: French President Nicolas Sarkozy told his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao Wednesday that Chinese involvement was essential to solving the crises over Darfur, Iran and North Korea, the presidency said. PARIS, May 23, 2007 (AFP) – French President Nicolas Sarkozy told his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao Wednesday that Chinese involvement was essential to solving the crises over Darfur, Iran and North Korea, the presidency said.
In his first official contact with Beijing since taking office last week, the French president acknowledged “China’s considerable role in the world” in his telephone conversation with Hu.
“There will be no solution on the question of Iran, on the question of Darfur, on the question of North Korea, without strong and positive Chinese involvement,” he was quoted as saying by a spokesman.
During their discussion, Hu invited Sarkozy to visit Beijing later in the year, an offer the French president accepted “without hesitation.”
“I admire China and I want to have regular, trusting and friendly contacts with China’s leaders,” he was quoted as telling Hu.
“President Hu Jintao saluted Nicolas Sarkozy as ‘an old and respected friend of the Chinese people, who has always worked to bring France and China closer together’,” the spokesman said.
“You were kind enough to say that I was an old friend of China, and I will prove that to you. We will speak of all subjects with friendship but also with frankness,” Sarkozy was quoted as replying.
As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China is pivotal to shaping the international response to Iran and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, as well as the conflict in Sudan’s western Darfur region.
China is North Korea’s main ally and the broker of the six-nation talks that led to a February 13 agreement with Pyongyang, under which North Korea promised to shut down and seal its Yongbyon reactor in exchange for energy aid.
But the process stalled after Pyongyang refused to act until it receives some 25 million dollars of North Korean funds frozen under sanctions in a bank in Macau.
Concerning Iran, the United Nations has already adopted two resolutions imposing sanctions on Tehran for defying calls to halt sensitive uranium enrichment. Iran denies Washington’s charge that it seeks nuclear weapons.
China and Russia emphatically oppose military action to force Tehran into compliance — an option officially rejected by France, Britain and Germany but which Washington does not rule out.
And on Darfur, France’s new Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner is seeking to bring China, the United States and other countries together for talks on the crisis, an aid organisation said this week.
The United Nations says more than 200,000 people have been killed and two million displaced in the fighting in Darfur. Khartoum says only 9,000 people have died.
Washington is calling for sanctions to punish Khartoum but has run into opposition from China, the leading customer for Sudanese oil and a key supplier of military arms and equipment to Sudan.
Sarkozy strongly opposed calls for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics to force China to back international action in Darfur.
But he has vowed as president to confront rights violations committed by powerful allies, and has said that action in Darfur was “urgent”.
Sarkozy’s predecessor Jacques Chirac made close ties with China a priority during his 12-year presidency, visiting four times, and campaigning for an end to the arms embargo imposed after China’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy students in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Both Paris and Beijing have pledged to extend strategic and business ties under Sarkozy’s presidency.
French trade with China, excluding Hong Kong, was worth some 32 billion euros (43 billion dollars) in 2006, a 20-percent jump since the previous year.
Despite French consumer fears of Chinese competition undermining French jobs and goods, France’s exports to China jumped 40 percent in 2006 — while Chinese imports grew by a far slower 14 percent.