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Mainland, Taiwan acknowledge progress of cross-Strait talks

TAIPEI, Nov. 30 -- Negotiators from the Chinese mainland and Taiwan acknowledged the progress of cross-Strait talks since 2008 on Monday.

The Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and its Taiwan counterpart Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) held the third review of the results from talks, which began in 2008 in Taipei.

The 11 rounds of cross-Strait talks, which led to 23 agreements, have removed a lot of systemic barriers in exchanges between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait and eased interaction between people on both sides, said Zheng Lizhong, ARATS vice president, who led the mainland negotiators at the review.

Reviewing the progress in the past seven years is to make sure that the future talks are more pragmatic and continue to benefit ordinary people across the Strait, he said.

Zheng called on the two sides to consolidate mutual trust, which is based on shared commitment to the 1992 Consensus.

"The main reason that cross-Strait talks have made so much progress was that we have stuck to this common political foundation," he said.

He also called for stronger confidence of future talks.

"Although the two sides have followed different development paths and held different positions on certain issues, there is one common ground that none of us prefer conflict over peace, separation over exchange nor confrontation over cooperation," he said.

Shih Hui-fen, SEF vice chairperson, told the meeting that cross-Strait talks have covered various issues that are vital to ordinary people's life across the Strait, such as business exchange, tourism, travel, judicial cooperation and natural disaster control.

The agreements signed between SEF and ARATS have led to actual improvement of cross-Strait relations and people's well-being, she said.

According to an opinion poll conducted by Taiwan's mainland affairs department last month, about 82.5 percent of respondents acknowledged the progress of ARATS-SEF talks.

Shih pledged that the SEF will work harder to push forwards the implementation of the current agreements in Taiwan and maintain a steady cooperation with ARATS.

Both of them highlighted the historic meeting between Xi Jinpingand Ma Ying-jeou in Singapore earlier this month and promised to carry on the favorable changes the meeting brought to cross-Strait ties.

The ARATS and SEF have been entrusted by authorities to engage in regular cross-Strait talks since the early 1990s. After a suspension of ten years, the two organizations resumed their talks in 2008 and signed a number of key deals, such as lifting bans on direct shipping, air transport and poster services and an overall economic cooperation pact.

The agreements led to considerable changes across the Strait. The total number of passenger flights between the two sides increased from 36 per week in 2008 to 890, with the flight route greatly shortened.

Since the two sides lifted the ban on mainland tourists to Taiwan in 2008, a total of 13 million mainland residents have been to the island.

Since mainland firms were allowed to invest in Taiwan in 2009, the mainland investment has reached about 1.7 billion U.S. dollars in Taiwan and created about 11,400 new jobs.

On Monday evening, ARATS President Chen Deming met with SEF Chairman Lin Join-sane in Taipei.

At the meeting, Chen promised that the ARATS will continue to work with the SEF and play a constructive role in maintaining cross-Strait peace and development.

Chen is in Taiwan for a week-long visit.