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UK says Dalai Lama has met conditions set by China for talks
Phayul[Friday, October 31, 2008 19:22]
“No government which is committed to promoting international respect for human rights can remain silent on the issue of Tibet, or disinterested in a solution to its problems.” - David Miliband, British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

By Phurbu Thinley

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, left, with British Prime Minister and Labour Party leader Gordon Brown (AP/file)
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, left, with British Prime Minister and Labour Party leader Gordon Brown (AP/file)
Dharamsala, October 31: In a written ministerial statement issued Wednesday, the British government has acknowledged that the exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama has actually met conditions set by the Chinese government in order to have dialogue for a negotiated settlement between the two sides.

“The Chinese Government has said that it is serious about dialogue and that it hopes for a positive outcome. It has set conditions for dialogue which we believe the Dalai Lama has met,” British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said in the statement.

“The Dalai Lama has made clear that he is not seeking separation or independence. He has said repeatedly that he is seeking a resolution to the situation of Tibet within the framework of the Chinese constitution,” Miliband said, adding “He [Dalai Lama] has maintained a clear opposition to violence.”

Commenting on the latest round of talks being held in Beijing, Miliband said: “These talks are hugely important for the future of Tibet. They provide the only forum in which there is any realistic possibility of progress to resolve the differences between the parties involved”.

The statement says: “The British Government has a strong interest in the dialogue between the Chinese Government and the Dalai Lama's representatives, although we are not a party to it.

“No government which is committed to promoting international respect for human rights can remain silent on the issue of Tibet, or disinterested in a solution to its problems.”

“Britain has been clear under this Government about our commitment to the people of Tibet. We remain deeply concerned about the human rights situation there,” Miliband said, adding he himself had made “the same point to Foreign Minister Yang on a number of occasions since the unrest in March this year in Tibet.”

He said, “We have consistently made clear that we want to see the human rights of the Tibetan people respected, including through respect for their distinct culture, language, traditions and religions.”

“Our interest is not in restoring an order which existed 60 years ago and which the Dalai Lama himself has said he does not seek to restore,” he said.

Miliband said his government is also concerned “at more immediate issues arising directly from the unrest of this spring, including the situation of those who remain in detention following the unrest, the increased constraints on religious activity, and the limitations on free access to the Tibetan Autonomous Region by diplomats and journalists”.

He said “These issues reinforce long-held unease on the part of the Government about the underlying human rights situation in Tibet.”

“Our interest is in long term stability, which can only be achieved through respect for human rights and greater autonomy for the Tibetans,” he added.

Saying his government is aware of the “indications of growing frustration among some Tibetans about the dialogue process”, Miliband said that the Dalai Lama’s stated position of opposing violence and seeking meaningful autonomy within the framework of the Chinese constitution provided a basis for a negotiated settlement.

“Our strong view is that genuine progress at the next round of talks is essential to promote progress on such a settlement. Participation in these talks carries a weight of responsibility for both parties,” he said of the ongoing eighth round of talks started since 2002.

However, commenting on the ministerial statement, London-based Free Tibet organisation insists that the British Government could do more than simply issuing an official statement.

While welcoming certain points raised by the foreign secretary, the group said it was “disappointed that the British government has not publicly sponsored a call for an international delegation to visit Tibet to launch an independent investigation into events in Tibet this spring”.

"The British government, and other foreign governments, must now move beyond a position of welcoming talks for the sake of talks,” Free Tibet director Stephanie Brigden said.

“The Chinese government must be held accountable for a worsening human rights situation in Tibet, a situation that the Foreign Secretary in his statement today admits to causing long-standing 'unease'” Brigden said.

According to him, a “call for an international fact-finding delegation to Tibet would be a good first step: even if such a demand were rejected by China it would at least signal to China that the international community will not remain silent on gross human rights violations in Tibet".
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