The International Campaign for Tibet welcomes the meeting announced yesterday between President Obama and His Holiness the Dalai Lama as an opportunity both to deepen their relationship and discuss forward steps in U.S. support for the Dalai Lama’s leadership and his approach of seeking a solution for Tibet through dialogue with the People’s Republic of China.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs has said that the White House meeting is set for February 18 and “The Dalai Lama is an internationally respected religious leader and spokesman for Tibetan rights, and the President looks forward to an engaging and constructive dialogue.”

Mary Beth Markey, Vice President for International Advocacy at the International Campaign for Tibet, said, “We also hope for a constructive meeting as the Tibetan people have demonstrated to the world their increasing frustration with the situation in Tibet, and many are suffering for doing so. We believe that President Obama understands what is at stake for the Tibetan people and has a role to play as the leader of a nation founded on universal principles of freedom and justice.”

The White House meeting follows discussions on Tibet in Beijing between Presidents Obama and Hu at the US-China Summit in November, and the ninth round of dialogue between the Dalai Lama’s envoys and Chinese officials on January 30 and 31.

During the eighth round of dialogue in October/November 2008, the Dalai Lama’s envoys presented to the government of the People’s Republic of China a “Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People,” which they followed with a Note during the recently-concluded ninth round. The Dalai Lama is seeking the exercise by all Tibetans of autonomous rights identified in the Chinese Constitution, and the Memorandum and Note are expressions of his Middle-Way approach, which means the pursuit of a mutually acceptable and beneficial solution achieved through negotiations, in the spirit of reconciliation and compromise.

It will be the first meeting between President Obama and the Dalai Lama as two Nobel Peace Laureates (2009 and 1989, respectively). In this capacity, and as is typical for the Dalai Lama, it is expected that he will also raise issues of global concern with his fellow Peace Laureate.

The meeting reflects an historic and internationally-shared recognition of the Dalai Lama as an important and valued spokesperson for human rights and human dignity, a record of U.S. programmatic and political support for the Tibetan people’s struggle against oppression, and the precedence of meetings between U.S. Presidents and the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama arrives in Washington, D.C. on the afternoon of February 17. His visit is primarily to meet with President Obama. On the 19th morning, he will receive the Democracy Service Medal from the National Endowment for Democracy at a ceremony at the Library of Congress. He departs Washington, D.C. thereafter.