Europe to tackle China on Darfur at Asia-EU meeting

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May 27, 2007 (HAMBURG) — Top diplomats from 46 countries in Asia and Europe meet in Germany from Monday for talks ranging from the Darfur conflict and the North Korean and Iranian nuclear crises to global warming.

The eighth Asia-Europe meeting (ASEM) of foreign ministers comes after new French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared that major international issues cannot be resolved without the cooperation of China.

“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,” Sarkozy said on Wednesday.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has signalled that he plans to use the two-day meeting in the northern German city of Hamburg to hold one-on-one talks with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi on Darfur.

China is the leading customer for Sudanese oil and sells arms to the Khartoum government, which is accused of supporting Arab militia in Darfur in a brutal campaign against non-Arabs which the UN says has left 200,000 dead and 2 mln displaced.

Beijing has been blocking US-led attempts at the United Nations Security Council to use sanctions to force Sudan to allow UN troops into the region to stem the bloodshed.

On Friday, the council endorsed plans for a hybrid UN-African Union force but its deployment remains subject to the approval of Khartoum.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country currently holds the EU and G8 presidencies, last week said Berlin believed strongly that UN peacekeepers should “at last” be deployed in Darfur.

Kouchner, a human rights champion for whom the ASEM meeting marks his second trip abroad since taking office this month, has pinpointed China as one of the countries that should be included, along with the United States, in a proposed new contact group of nations on Darfur.

China’s presence at the ASEM meeting will also give European diplomats another chance ahead of the G8 summit on June 6-8 to press the emerging industrial giant for a clear commitment on fighting global warming.

Merkel, who is hosting that summit, warned last week that “there will be no climate protection” without the cooperation of nations like China and India.

Together the two countries are set to surpass the United States on greenhouse gas emissions by 2015.

The United States believes the proposals Germany will make at the G8 summit to set out targets and a timetable to limit climate change are unacceptable, reports said on Saturday.

At an ASEM meeting on the environment in Copenhagen last month, the bloc acknowledged the importance of finding a global accord on how to cut greenhouse gas emissions after 2012 when the Kyoto Protocol runs out.

Monday’s meeting comes in the wake of a new missile test by North Korea and a report by the UN’s atomic watchdog which warned Iran could be in a postition to produce nuclear weapons within three to eight years.

“North Korea and non-proliferation will be an issue,” a German foreign ministry official said.

The meeting marks the entry into ASEM of India, Pakistan and Mongolia, as well as Bulgaria and Romania who joined the EU in January.

The ASEM nations account for half of the world’s gross domestic product and just over half of the world’s population.

The forum was founded in 1996 as a potential counter for Europe to strong US influence in the region.

But over the past decade ASEM has struggled to prove that it can deliver concrete decisions.

The foreign ministers’ meeting will be attended by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

It will be preceded on Monday by talks between the European Union troika — which groups Germany, EU external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and Solana — and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang on international affairs.

(AFP)