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Ma hopes to push Sao Tome ties to new high

SAO TOME -- President Ma Ying-jeou has expressed hopes that relations between the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Sao Tome and Principe will reach a new high this year through close cooperation between the two countries.

“The R.O.C. government has been working very actively and seriously with the private sectors to try to push ties between the two countries to a new level,” Ma said Friday while addressing a state dinner hosted in his honor by Sao Tome's President Manuel Pinto da Costa.

Ma noted that over the past 17 years since the two countries established diplomatic relations, they have jointly launched various cooperation projects with fruitful results.

Bilateral cooperation will continue to expand this year, reaching areas such as culture and education, he said.

Ma arrived in Sao Tome and Principe earlier Friday on the first leg of his three-nation diplomatic tour. Upon his arrival, he was warmly greeted by Pinto da Costa and received a formal welcome with full military honors.

After their talks at the Presidential Palace, Ma and Pinto da Costa jointly held a press conference, in which Ma acclaimed the remarkable results of joint efforts between the two countries in fighting against malaria in Sao Tome.

Thanks to the malaria control and prevention programs carried out between 2003 and 2006 by Taiwanese expert Lien Jih-ching, also known as Dr. Mosquito, the malaria prevalence rate in the African country has dropped from 40 percent to 4 percent, Ma said.

Ma also revealed that the two countries will set up a joint commission in March to handle all matters of cooperation between the two countries.

Proposed cooperation, such as the construction of a hospital and the second state-run high school in Sao Tome, can be discussed and dealt with at the commission, Ma added.

Speaking of the proposed hospital, which he said was brought up by Sao Tome Prime Minister Gabriel Arcanjo Ferreirada Costa during a visit to Taiwan last year, Ma noted that after consulting with the Ministry of Health and Welfare and Taipei Medical University, his administration has concluded that it could be practicable to build a specialized hospital equipped with a dialysis center.

His government will send experts in the field to the country to discuss the proposal as soon as possible, Ma said.

Asked in what fields will the two countries strengthen their cooperation, Pinto da Costa said that currently there are no concrete projects. He added that he wishes cooperation will be possible in every field.

Pinto da Costa also said that he expects concrete cooperation programs will be formed in the planned joint commission, scheduled to be formed in March.

This is Ma's first visit to the African ally during his more than five years in office.

He will fly to Burkina Faso, another African country with diplomatic ties with Taiwan, on Jan. 25 before traveling to Honduras in Central America to attend the Jan. 27 inauguration of Honduran president-elect Juan Orlando Hernandez.

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Children holding banners and national flags of Sao Tome and Principe and the Republic of China welcome President Ma Ying-jeou at the Sao Tome International Airport on Friday, Jan. 24. The Chinese banners read “We love Taiwan” and “We are friends.”

(CNA)

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