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German officials meet president during stop

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou arrived in Frankfurt, Germany early Friday for a refueling stop on a visit that will take him to the nation's two allies in Africa and to attend the inauguration ceremony of Honduras' new president.

This brief visit to Germany is the first time President Ma has made a stopover in the European country during his state visits to diplomatic allies.

Ma is on an eight-day tour that will take him to Burkina Faso and Sao Tome and Principe in Africa and Honduras in Central America. The visit is Ma's ninth diplomatic tour since he first took office in 2008.

The president's charter flight that departed Taiwan on late Thursday reportedly flew northward, passing through Russian airspace before touching down at Frankfurt around 6 a.m. on Friday.

Diplomatic sources told local media that flying northward via Russia and Germany would be a relatively quicker route to Africa than the one used by Taiwan's presidents in the past, which took them south over India and the Middle East.

It is the first time that a Taiwan president has gained permission to fly through Russian airspace, an arrangement that resulted from Ma's “low-key, zero surprises” diplomatic policy, the sources said.

According to local media reports, during his stay in Germany, Ma had a three-hour closed-door meeting with unidentified German officials.

Foreign Minister David Lin (林永樂) later told reporters that Ma was meeting with several incumbent and former German congress members, one of whom was Franz-Josef Jung.

After a short stay in Europe, the president's charter flight departed Frankfurt for Sao Tome and Principe.

The island nation of Sao Tome and Principe is the only one of the nation's 22 diplomatic allies that Ma has not yet visited during his more than five-year tenure as the Republic of China's president.

No Checkbook Diplomacy: Ma

During the flight to Germany, Ma dismissed local media reports that alleged the president is prepared to expand Taiwan's assistance projects to the countries he will be visiting in an effort to consolidate bilateral ties.

The president stressed that Taiwan has regular assistance projects with its diplomatic allies and all the projects are being conducted under three principles — seeking proper goals, acting lawfully and exercising effective administration.

“It is our obligation to offer assistance to developing countries, but we will do so within our abilities,” Ma said.

After visiting Sao Tome and Principe, Ma is scheduled to visit Burkina Faso, another of Taiwan's African diplomatic allies, before traveling to Honduras to attend the inauguration ceremony of Honduran president-elect Juan Orlando Hernandez on Jan. 27.

On his way back, Ma will make another transit stop in Los Angeles before heading back to Taipei, according to a source familiar with the tour.

Ma is scheduled to return to Taipei on Jan. 30.

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President Ma Ying-jeou speaks to passengers over the public address system on a chartered China Airlines plane during its flight to Germany on Friday, Jan. 24. Ma is currently on an eight-day tour that will take him to Burkina Faso and Sao Tome and Principe in Africa and Honduras in Central America. The visit is Ma's ninth diplomatic tour since he first took office in 2008. (CNA)

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