Sao Tome: Angola supports restoration of relations with China

10 March 2008

Luanda, Angola, 10 March – Angola is supporting China’s initiative to reestablish its bilateral relations with Sao Tome and Principe after ties were cut 10 years ago when the archipelago gave diplomatic recognition to Taiwan.

This development has been reported by the Africa Monitor newsletter, which said the “discreet pressure” from Beijing has support from Sao Tome’s main opposition party, the MLSTP/PSD.

This party, currently alone on the opposition benches after a new three-way coalition government was installed in the islands under Prime Minister Patrice Trovoada, is known to support more opening to China.

In February 2005, the MLSTP, then led by Guilherme Posser da Costa, invited a representative from the Chinese Communist Party to its annual congress.

“The MLSTP/PSD has longstanding historic relations with the Chinese Communist Party” and “will never forget friends who helped Sao Tome win its independence,” Posser da Costa had said in response to opposition criticism, denying that he was preparing to break ties with Taiwan.

During the MLSTP/PSD congress a leader of the Chinese Communist Party said his party was prepared to “promote the implementation of normalized Sino-Sao Tome relations as soon as possible.”

China decided to suspend its diplomatic relations of 20 years with Sao Tome in 1997 due to the islands’ establishment of official ties with Taiwan. China has never recognized Taiwan and considers the island as part of its territory.

In a recent interview with Portuguese news agency Lusa, Sao Tome’s president said his country’s relations with Taiwan have been profitable but added that he is a “realist” over this issue.

“I haven’t got an oracle to guess if we’re going to terminate (relations) with this one and start with another. “We’ll see” the future of relations with China and Taiwan, he added.

Two-way contacts between Sao Tome and China are rare, but Beijing has become closer to Sao Tome as part of its policy of boosting economic and trade ties with Lusophone African states.

Examples of these closer relations are the invitations to Sao Tome, in the framework of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), to take part in the Lusophone Games and to attend the China-Africa forum on economic cooperation as an observer.

China’s Sinopec is also in the process of staring oil exportation in offshore oil blocs jointly administered by Sao Tome and Nigeria in the Gulf of Guinea.

Together with Addax Petroleum, Sinopec will invest nearly US$ 73.8 million to prospect in Blocs 2 and 4, where two wells are expected to be drilled between 2008 and 2013.

Oil is also behind Sao Tome’s increasing economic relations with Angola, a country with growing political influence in the islands and one that could give essential support to China’s interests in the archipelago.

Sao Tome announced at the end of last year that it aimed to reinforce its cooperation with Angolan state energy company Sonangol to develop hydrocarbons resources in the islands’ exclusive economic zone. (macauhub)