VILNIUS – Giedrius Surplys, a deputy chairman of Lithuania's parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, met with Qu Baihua, China's acting chargé d'affaires in Lithuania, earlier this week to discuss rising tensions between the two countries.
The representative of the opposition Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union said he was assured the conflict would end if the Taiwanese representative office in Vilnius was renamed.
"I met with the acting chargé d'affaires in Lithuania at their invitation, at their embassy, and I informed the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the head of the State Security Department about that and I always do so if I think it's a matter of state importance," Surplys told BNS.
"You would find it hard to believe that but I also met with Taiwan's representatives when we were in the United States, I met with the head of their representative office. My goal is to mediate as I am sure nobody needs harsh conflicts," the lawmaker said.
Surplys said he was told by China's acting chargé d'affaires that the key reason for the conflict was the name of the Taiwanese representative office in Vilnius as "when the conversation on the official name starts, it's a red line for them and they do not allow anyone to cross it".
"The key question I asked was whether it was really about the name as our ruling block keeps on saying that it's not about the name, that China is angered by our 5G ban for Chinese companies and for our exit from the 17+1 format. The embassy's chargé d'affaires assured me that the name was the only problem and they would not object to the operation of Taipei's office in Lithuania, just as it does in other countries in the world, but the problem is in the name and the fact that hardly anyone is talking to them from our ministry," Surplys said.
"We talked about what ifs. Their position is that Lithuania can really come out of this situation as a winner, (…) if we changed those several letters and named the office the way the whole world does, and the whole conflict would end," the opposition representative said.
COMMITTEE CHAIR: SEIMAS MEMBERS ARE FREE TO ACT
Speaking to BNS, Laima Liucija Andrikiene, chair of the Seimas Committee on Foreign Affairs, confirmed to have received Surplys' written notification early this week of his plans to meet with the Chinese chargé d'affaires. She refrained from commenting in detail, however, saying that it's a sensitive issue.
"I received the colleague's short letter to notify me that he would meet with the acting chargé d'affaires and could provide information about the meeting and what they talked about, if I was interested. I did not speak with Mr. Surplys after that. As far as I understand, nobody of the people who he wrote to got interested in what they talked about, so he needed to talk to reporters," Andrikiene said.
"My position is that we live in a democratic country where every Seimas member is free to act in the way they understand their mission and responsibility and duty, and the way they are capable of objectively evaluating the situation, today's challenges Lithuania is now facing," the committee chair said.
She also reminded of a Seimas delegation's visit to the United States where proposals were registered in the US Congress and the Senate on changing the name of the Taiwanese representative office in Washington from "Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States" as "the Taiwan Representative Office".
"Last week, as representatives of the Seimas Committee on Foreign Affairs, we with colleague Giedrius visited Washington where we met with an impressive number of members of the US House of Representatives and Senate and we heard their various opinions. During our visit, bills were registered in the US Congress and Senate for the US administration to hold negotiations with Taiwan on renaming the latter's representative office. With no doubt, the law will be adopted as there's plenty of political will on the matter. This move by the US, which is Lithuania's strategic partner, is a great response to critics in Lithuania who criticize our relations with China," she said.
Earlier this week, China's General Administration of Customs officially notified Lithuania on the country's decision to suspend imports of beef, dairy products and beer.
Lithuania's exports to China plunged 91 percent in December, from the same period last year, based on the figures from the European Commission.
Lithuanian-Chinese relations soured after a Taiwanese representative office was opened in Vilnius under the island's name. Experts say the name in Chinese sounds like it is Taiwan's representative office, and Beijing views that as Taiwan's attempt to act as an independent country.