Berlin, January 15: German Chancellor Angela Merkel reaffirmed that there has been no change on her position on the Dalai Lama following Beijing's strong criticism over last September's between Merkel and the Tibetan spiritual leader at the chancellery.
Speaking at a news conference in Berlin, "Everything has been said on this issue. Friendships have to endure differences."
Angela Merkel with the Dalai Lama in Berlin on Sunday, September 23, 2007. Despite China’s protest, Chancellor Merkel of Germany met with the exiled Tibetan leader at the Chancellery, making it the first historic visit of its kind.(Phayul.com/photo by Markus Schreiber/ International Herald Tribune)
Merkel's remarks on China followed recent comments by her Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier who openly acknowledged that Berlin-Beijing ties were in "deep turmoil" in the wake of the official Dalai Lama meeting.
The chancellor and her foreign minister were involved in a major feud over the China policy in recent weeks.
Merkel has strongly defended her decision to meet with the Dalai Lama.
"As chancellor, I decide whom I meet and where I meet them. I wish everyone in the government would keep to this position because otherwise China's respect for us will not increase," she was quoted saying.
Her remarks were clearly aimed at Steinmeier who has criticized Merkel for trying to "showcase" the human rights issue as part of her wider public relations strategy in the field of German foreign policy.
The Merkel-Steinmeier dispute comes at at time where both coalition partners are getting ready for the 2009 election campaign with the Social Democrats (SPD) trailing by a wide margin in all opinion polls over the past weeks.
Although SPD chairman Kurt Beck is still a front-runner for the chancellor's job, Merkel sees also in Steinmeier a likely serious contender for the top post in Germany.
While Merkel has pressed ahead with the US rapprochement process and tried to distance herself from China and Russia, Steinmeier who was the former bureau chief of ex-chancellor Gerhard Schroeder -- had played an instrumental role in fostering closer ties with Beijing and Moscow since the late 1990s.
Beijing has called off a series high-level political meetings in recent weeks, voicing its protest over the provocative talks between Merkel and the Dalai Lama at the chancellery in late September.
Meanwhile, the German government is openly provoking China by planning to meet again with the Dalai Lama, according to recent news reports.
The human rights coordinator of the German government, Guenter Nooke is reportedly expected to meet the Dalai Lama in Berlin on May 19.
It is still unclear whether Nooke will receive the Dalai Lama in his office in the German Foreign Ministry.
Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama has also requested to hold talks with Steinmeier, however he has yet to receive an answer.
The German Foreign Ministry said it was still "reviewing" the request.