- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 14, 2005

The European Union will not lift its arms embargo on China and will shelve such plans until Beijing improves its human rights record and eases tensions with Taiwan, U.S. and European officials said yesterday.

The officials’ statements came as the European Parliament voted to keep the ban in place in what amounts to a recommendation to the European Commission, the executive body of the 25-member union.

Even though an official decision has yet to be made, diplomats on both sides of the Atlantic said the proposal to end the embargo, which was imposed after the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, does not have enough support.

“We do not now believe that the EU is close to a decision to lifting the embargo itself, but we realize that we must keep this issue at the forefront of our agenda with the EU,” said Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs.

Speaking before a joint hearing of the House International Relations and Armed Services committees, he said the Bush administration had made clear its view that “the EU’s lifting of the embargo would negatively affect regional stability as well as America’s security interests.”

In Berlin yesterday, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said China should take human rights more seriously and try to resolve its dispute with Taiwan peacefully.

“The Europeans are prepared to do all in their power to move things in the right direction, but we are also expecting from the other side that they will do it,” Mr. Fischer said. “The conditions are known. The conditions are clear.”

His Green Party opposes Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s position that the embargo should be ended, which has pitted the minister against his boss.

“The Greens are not in favor of lifting the embargo,” the Greens’ foreign affairs spokesman, Fritz Kuhn, said in a debate in the German parliament. “We want the embargo to be lifted only if there are substantial improvements” by China on democracy and human rights.

Germany and France voted to lift the ban in the European Parliament, but Sweden, Denmark, Finland, the Czech Republic and others opposed that proposal.

The United States has put enormous pressure on the Europeans since they decided in December to consider lifting the sanctions. In addition, China’s enactment of a law authorizing military action if Taiwan proclaims independence had an impact on the European Union’s decision, diplomats said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice welcomed Mr. Fischer’s remarks.

“I can’t help but think that it is a positive statement because, as you know, we have been very concerned about the lifting of an embargo that would send the wrong message on human rights, given that it was imposed in response to the Tiananmen Square situation,” Miss Rice said.

“We have been pleased at the openness of the Europeans in discussing this,” she said.

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