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UN official advises government to solve territorial disputes via talks

TAIPEI -- A visiting United Nations official would not comment Monday on President Ma Ying-jeou's recent peace proposal for the East China Sea, but suggested that Taiwan hold bilateral negotiations with its neighboring countries over such disputes.

“Undoubtedly, every time a country engages constructively with neighbors is a good thing, but we cannot comment on individual cases,” Galo Carrera, a former chairman and current member of the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, told Taiwan's Central News Agency on the sidelines of a two-day seminar in Taipei.

The seminar held by National Taiwan Normal University is being attended by 19 local and foreign experts who will share and exchange their opinions on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the resolution of territorial disputes.

In early August, Ma advocated the establishment of a code of conduct for the East China Sea and cooperation on the development of the region's resources as ways of getting around territorial disputes, especially competing claims over the Tiaoyutai Islands.

The Tiaoyutai Islands, called the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China, lie about 100 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan. The island group is claimed by Taiwan, China and Japan.

“It is a delicate issue in which I do not have advice on policy issue related to sovereignty or government issues,” said Carrera.

“Whatever arrangements that Taiwan negotiates with all its neighbors are the routes to go,” the Mexican U.N. official added.

The best avenue for Taiwan to solve the disputes is to enter into bilateral negotiations with its neighboring countries, he said.

Carrera said that his position is completely impartial in relation to all initiatives that take place.

In addition, recent events in the South China Sea should be considered lessons, said Carrera.

“The lessons learned and experiences had in the South China Sea can help us understand the consequences and causes and effects of actions taking place in other regions and vice versa,” he added.

Meanwhile, Deputy Interior Minister Lin Tzu-ling, who was invited to make the opening remarks at the event, reaffirmed Taiwan's claim to the South China Sea and East China Sea amid growing territorial disputes among neighboring countries

“It is indisputable that the Republic of China holds sovereignty over the two regions from the perspectives of geography, history and international law,” Lin said.

The results of the seminar will serve as reference for the government's future policymaking on similar issues and policies, she said.

Taiwan has made efforts to have a stronger presence amid the growing disputes. In addition to Ma's East China Sea Peace Initiative, several senior officials visited Taiping Island in the South China Sea to assert sovereignty in late August.

Six countries — Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei — claim all or part of the South China Sea and its island chains. The area is believed to be rich in oil resources.

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