(AFP) – Sep 21, 2007
BERLIN (AFP) — Germany firmly believes that Chancellor Angela Merkel's meeting with the Dalai Lama here on Sunday will not harm its ties with China, a government spokesman said on Friday.
"We absolutely believe that this private exchange of ideas will not disturb the good state of German-Chinese relations and cooperation," deputy government spokesman Thomas Steg told reporters.
"We believe that they will continue to develop in a positive manner in future. It was clear during the chancellor's recent visit to China that it is the interest of both our countries."
Steg signalled that the Dalai Lama's first ever visit to the German chancellery would go ahead despite pressure from China this week for Berlin to cancel his visit.
The German foreign ministry said China had summoned its ambassador in Beijing over the issue.
"The meeting will take place, the invitation stands, and the chancellor also extended the invitation very consciously," Steg said.
He reiterated Germany's stated policy of supporting Tibet's quest for "religious and cultural autonomy" and stressed that the Dalai Lama is not demanding full independence for the Himalayan region that was taken over by Chinese troops in 1950.
Steg said Merkel believed that the issue of Tibet's future could only be resolved in talks between Beijing and the exiled religious leader.
In an interview with Saturday's Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, the Dalai Lama described China's protests to his visit as "the arrogance of power".
He praised Merkel's "strong commitment" to human rights in China, adding: "Perhaps that is why she wants to see me, despite all the pressure from Beijing."
China has bristled for years at the Dalai Lama's international following. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his non-violent approach to relations with China.
The 71-year-old Dalai Lama has led a Tibetan government-in-exile in India since 1959.
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