A last-minute schedule change in President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) first trip to Africa, which excluded Sao Tome and Principe from his itinerary, had nothing to do with problematic bilateral relations between the two countries, a foreign affairs official said yesterday.
Ma was originally scheduled to embark on a 12-day state visit on April 7 to Burkina Faso, Gambia, Swaziland and Sao Tome and Principe, the first time a Taiwanese president is to visit the four diplomatic allies in Africa since 2002.
The government made the itinerary public on March 14, but announced on Monday that the trip to Sao Tome and Principe would be canceled because its scheduled date conflicted with an overseas trip by Sao Tome and Principe President Manuel Pinto da Costa.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman James Chang (章計平) yesterday dismissed a Chinese-language Apple Daily report that the Pinto da Costa administration intended to switch ties to Beijing because China had agreed to provide it with the funds to modernize its only international airport, while Taiwan had rejected the project.
The cancelation was purely because of a conflict in Ma and Pinto da Costa’s schedules, Chang said.
Sao Tome told Taipei that it would welcome Ma visiting the country when Taipei was in the early stages of arranging the trip and that it would like to make adjustments to Pinto da Costa’s planned overseas trip in April to host Ma, but it turned out that the two sides could not work out the scheduling issues after one month of negotiations, Chang said.
The Pinto da Costa administration has expressed regret over not being able to meet Taiwan’s delegation and it hoped that Ma could visit the country at the end of the month, Chang said.
The African country on March 21 suggested that Ma delay his visit until April 30, but the ministry could not accept the suggestion out of respect for the other three countries where the president’s itineraries had already been finalized, the ministry said.