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Apology not needed over rift with Panama: foreign minister

2012/05/24 12:16:49

Taipei, May 24 (CNA) Foreign Minister Timothy Yang said Thursday that there is no need to apologize for a meeting he had with Panamanian Vice President Juan Carlos Varela, leader of an opposition party, amid rumors that the meeting angered Panama's government.

The controversy is the result of a “misunderstanding” and a letter of explanation has been sent to Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, Yang said before attending a session of the Legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.

“Taiwan is an innocent third party,” the minister said.

Yang said Varela, an acquaintance of Taiwan for many years, visited him mainly to congratulate President Ma Ying-jeou on his Jan. 14 re-election.

“It was as simple as that,” the minister said, adding that he has sought through various channels to explain the incident to Martinelli, who has had a falling out with Varela.

During a trip Yang made to attend Panama’s presidential inauguration in January, he also met with Varela, a move that angered Martinelli and triggered diplomatic retaliation, according to media reports.

Martinelli has delayed accepting the credentials of Diego Lin Chou, Taiwan’s new ambassador to Panama, for about three months.

A letter of credence is a formal letter usually sent by one head of state to another that formally grants diplomatic accreditation to a named individual, allowing that person to serve as an ambassador.

“There is no reason to apologize because I have done nothing wrong,” he said in response to a reporter’s question on whether he will apologize to the Panamanian government.

"There is a misunderstanding between the two nations," Deputy Foreign Minister Tung Kuo-yu admitted in a question-and-answer session at a legislative committee session that same day.

Diplomatic relations between Taiwan and Panama, however, are solid and there are no indications that ties will be severed, he said.

(By Nancy Liu)