Paris protest

Protests greeted the Olympic torch as it passed through Paris on April 7, 2008. (ICT)

The French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who arrives in Beijing tomorrow (August 8) to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympics, will not meet the Dalai Lama during the exiled Tibetan leader’s visit to France next week, despite his earlier expressed commitment to support the dialogue between the Dalai Lama’s representatives and Beijing. Sarkozy¹s office said yesterday that the Dalai Lama did not ask to meet the French President during his 11-day stay in France, which was confirmed by the Dalai Lama’s Private Office today. The Dalai Lama’s Representative in Paris said that he was in contact with Sarkozy’s office about a possible meeting towards the end of the year instead.

Vincent Metten, Executive Director of the International Campaign for Tibet in Brussels, said today: “The crisis in Tibet demands serious and urgent attention. President Sarkozy should not now retreat from what was promising French leadership on an issue of international concern. At this time, a meeting between Sarkozy and the Dalai Lama is less important than an indication from the Elysee Palace of its serious intention to help move negotiations between the Chinese and Tibetans forward to a successful conclusion.”

The statement from the Elysee also said that Sarkozy’s wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, will take part in a religious ceremony presided over by the Dalai Lama on August 22 opening a Buddhist temple in southern France. The governing party, the UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) said today: “The presence of [President Sarkozy’s] wife (Carla Bruni-Sarkozy) at a ceremony with the Dalai Lama on 22 August and a meeting before the end of the year are a sign that, in order to make progress on peace, dialogue and mutual respect are better than provocation and violence.” one of the UMP’s spokespersons, Frederic Lefebvre, was quoted by AFP as saying today.

President Sarkozy, Chairman of the European Union under France’s current Presidency, threatened to boycott the opening of the Beijing Olympics because of China’s crackdown in Tibet earlier this year, saying that his attendance was dependent on progress in the Dalai Lama’s representatives’ talks with China. Although the Dalai Lama’s representatives have reported that there has been no progress, Sarkozy will still attend the opening ceremony tomorrow.

Vincent Metten from ICT in Brussels said: “We now sincerely hope that in Beijing tomorrow, President Sarkozy as the Chairman of the European Union, will raise with President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao the current crackdown in Tibet and the need for China to engage in sincere and results oriented talks with the Dalai Lama and his representatives”.

During an interview for French television on April 24, ‘Live from the Elysee Palace’, in response to a question about what France should do about Tibet, President Sarkozy said: “What do you expect me to do? That I sit saying ‘My God, it is not possible?’ We have to try. And if France does not try, who will? We try to do it. Tibet is part of China. When General De Gaulle recognized China in 1964 he recognized China with Tibet. The Dalai Lama himself does not advocate for the independence of Tibet. French should know that the Tibet Autonomous Region is huge, it is twice [the size of] France, and if it comes to historical Tibet it is big – around seven times the size of France. The Dalai Lama does also not ask for a boycott of the Olympic Games, but it is necessary that Tibet have a greater autonomy and that the Chinese authorities make a gesture, that they show for Tibet the same pragmatism they were able to show for Hong Kong.” (TFI and France 2 Televisions).