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September 19, 2017

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Sao Tome and Principe dropped from Ma's Africa itinerary

TAIPEI--President Ma Ying-jeou will not visit Sao Tome and Principe when he embarks on a visit to several allies in Africa next month because the country's president will not be home, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday.

The president was scheduled to visit Burkina Faso, Gambia, Sao Tome and Principe, and Swaziland on a 12-day trip scheduled for April 7-18, Shen Ssu-tsun, the deputy foreign minister and newly appointed representative to Japan, announced March 14.

However, the schedule has been changed because President Manuel Pinto da Costa of Sao Tome and Principe will not be able to host Ma as Pinto da Costa will be overseas at the time, according to a MOFA press release issued Monday evening.

Pinto da Costa has tried to coordinate with the governments of the countries he is to visit but could not get a satisfactory result, and his government has expressed regret over not being able to meet Taiwan's delegation, said the MOFA.

As late as March 21, the African country suggested that Ma delay his visit until April 30, but the MOFA said it was too difficult to reschedule a presidential visit.

A senior MOFA official said the change in itinerary was purely a result of a "conflict of schedules," and by no means indicated any trouble in the official ties between the two countries.

There is absolutely no problem with the diplomatic ties between the Republic of China and Sao Tome and Principe, said Hsu Mien-sheng, director-general of MOFA's Department of African Affairs.

Hsu noted that Sao Tome and Principe had agreed to host the presidential delegation in early April, but when both sides were discussing the feasibility of visiting between April 13-15, Sao Tome and Principe officials said they were in the middle of fixing a timetable for Pinto da Costa's own foreign tour.

The Taiwan delegation will stick to its original schedule and visit Burkina Faso, Gambia and Swaziland April 4-18, with minor changes in the time of visits to the three countries, he added.

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