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Taipei ready to discuss air charters with Beijing
Updated: 2005-11-04 15:33

TAIPEI - Taiwan said on Friday it was ready to talk to the mainland about allowing direct charter flights ahead of the peak Lunar New Year travel season in early 2006, a day after an invitation by Beijing.

Taipei ready to discuss air charters with Beijing
Taiwan's vice-chairman of the "Mainland Affairs Council" in charge of mainland affairs, David Huang explains Taipei's position on new charter flights with the mainland November 4, 2005, in Taipei. [AP]
But the island's top mainland policy-making body, the "Mainland Affairs Council," said it would prefer to discuss opening of direct cargo and passenger charters on a regular basis as well.

Taiwan has banned direct air links with the mainland since 1949, when the Nationalists lost the civil war and fled to the island.

But Taipei and Beijing exchanged landmark non-stop charter flights for the first time in over five decades during the Lunar New Year Festival in January and February this year after two sides met in Macau to iron out details.

"If the 2006 Lunar New Year charter flights are based on the same model of the 2005 charters," the council's vice chairman David Huang told a news conference.

"The goodwill we hope from them is to show some flexibility in cargo and passenger charters so we can make some progress on that front as soon as possible," Huang said.

The Lunar New Year, the biggest holiday in the Chinese speaking world, falls on January 26 next year.

Despite often testy ties, Taiwan companies are estimated to have invested over US$100 billion in the mainland since the 1980s.

An estimated 1 million of Taiwanese, or 5 percent of its population, work or live in the mainland and must normally transit through places such as Hong Kong when traveling between the two sides, adding at least four hours to their journeys.

Direct air links would be the latest in a series of developments, from visits to the mainland by Taiwan opposition politicians to Beijing's promises to give Taipei two endangered pandas, that have thawed relations between the two sides this year.

Top official in charge of tourism from the mainland was currently in the island for a 10-day visit, fuelling hopes the trip could open the floodgates for mainland tourists to the island.

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