Sarkozy seeks to bury the hatchet with China
French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Beijing on Wednesday for a visit aimed at reinvigorating ties tested two years ago over Tibet and at winning China`s support for new sanctions against Iran.
Beijing: French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Beijing on Wednesday for a visit aimed at reinvigorating ties tested two years ago over Tibet and at winning China`s support for new sanctions against Iran.
The French president, making his second state visit to China, was to head straight into a meeting with his opposite number Hu Jintao and address the media to kick off the official part of his three-day trip.
Sarkozy -- along with his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and a delegation of top ministers -- began the day with an initial stop in the ancient capital of Xian, where the couple visited the famed terracotta warriors under tight security.
The French leader will also meet Premier Wen Jiabao and other top officials during his time in Beijing before heading to Shanghai on Friday for the start of the World Expo.
"China has become an absolutely indispensable actor on the world stage," Sarkozy told China`s state Xinhua news agency in an interview published Wednesday.
"Today, there is not one major issue that we can handle without you."
Paris hopes to win China`s support for fresh UN sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear programme, but first Sarkozy has to seal France`s reconciliation with Beijing, two years after a heated row over Tibet.
In March 2008, just four months after Sarkozy`s first state visit to China, ties soured when the French leader expressed shock at the security crackdown in the Chinese-ruled region after protests there led to deadly violence.
A month later, the Chinese leadership was incensed when pro-Tibetan demonstrators booed and jostled the Olympic flame as it was carried through Paris on its way to the Beijing Games.
Tensions peaked when Sarkozy met the Dalai Lama, Tibet`s exiled spiritual leader, in December 2008, before starting to ease when the French leader met Hu at the G20 summit on the financial crisis last year.
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, during a visit to China in December, said any "misunderstandings" between Paris and Beijing were a thing of the past.
In his talks with Hu, Sarkozy is expected to seek Beijing`s backing for an overhaul of the global monetary system by the G20, but a French official said the leaders would not directly discuss foreign concerns over the yuan`s value.
On Thursday, he will meet China`s top legislator Wu Bangguo, the second highest-ranking figure in the Communist hierarchy, before seeing Wen on Friday.
The French president will mix politics with sightseeing during the trip, with scheduled visits to the Great Wall, the Ming Tombs and the Forbidden City.
Sarkozy will on Friday head to Shanghai, where he will officially open the French pavilion at the World Expo and take part in the opening ceremony for the six-month exhibition.
Cooperation agreements on ecology, higher education and the creation of new businesses are to be signed during Sarkozy`s visit, according to French officials.
"New chapters are about to be written in China`s relationships with France and with the European Union," the China Daily said Wednesday in an editorial.
"French President Nicolas Sarkozy`s three-day visit shows how each side has let bygones be bygones. It could be seen as a formal announcement to the world that the China-France relationship is now back to normal."
Hu is scheduled to make a state visit to France later this year.