ARATS, SEF chiefs hold historic talks in Taipei
Updated: 2008-11-04 14:38

TAIPEI -- The heads of the two main negotiating bodies of the Chinese mainland and Taiwan sat down together in Taipei on Tuesday morning for their first ever summit in Taiwan.

Chinese mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) President Chen Yunlin (L) shakes hands with the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (R) during their talks in Taipei of southeast China's Taiwan Province Nov. 4, 2008. [Xinhua]

The mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) president, Chen Yunlin, and the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) chairman, Chiang Pin-kung, began talks in Taipei.

Chen thanked Taiwan people for their understanding and support for the meeting, which he said was a milestone for the positive development of the cross-strait relationship.

"We feel relieved and honored to help the peaceful development of the cross-strait relationship and promote the mutual benefits of the compatriots on both sides of the strait," Chen said.

Chen said that once progress had been made on direct flights, shipping and postal services between the mainland and Taiwan, the ARATS and SEF would discuss financial cooperation and the normalization of economic ties.

He said food safety would also be discussed during the talks.

"We will try our best to meet the demands and requirements of the Taiwan people and try to reach agreements on the basis of mutual benefits and reciprocity," Chen said.

He said the ARATS and SEF would discuss means to increase the number of mainland tourists to Taiwan, and set agenda for meetings and talks between the two organizations in the next stage.

He said the mainland was considering a plan to allow residents across the country to travel to Taiwan.

Since July 20, residents in the municipalities of Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai and the provinces of Liaoning, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian, Shandong, Hubei, Guangdong, Chongqing, Yunnan and Shaanxi have been allowed to visit Taiwan in groups, under an agreement between the mainland and Taiwan.

Chen said tourism companies on both sides suggested that tourist groups traveling to Taiwan should be composed of at least five people, while the current rule was a minimum of 10.

He said the ARATS agreed with the suggestion, and hoped that with more chartered flights on week days, the number of mainland tourists to Taiwan could increase.

"We believe that with the efforts of both sides, direct links for transport and mail services that compatriots on both sides have been longing for over the past 30 years will become a reality," Chen said.

This would open a more convenient channel for cross-strait exchanges and economic cooperation and benefit people on both sides.

In June, the ARATS and the SEF held talks in Beijing and signed two agreements, almost 10 years after the suspension of talks.