Israeli rep: Taiwan nixes Iranian office | world | Hindustan Times
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Israeli rep: Taiwan nixes Iranian office

Taiwan is deciding whether to accept an Iranian request to open a diplomatic mission on the island, a Taiwanese official said, but the head of Israel's representative office said Friday he was told Taiwan already had turned Iran down.

world Updated: May 21, 2010 11:17 IST

Taiwan is deciding whether to accept an Iranian request to open a diplomatic mission on the island, a Taiwanese official said, but the head of Israel's representative office said Friday he was told Taiwan already had turned Iran down.

Raphael Gamzou told The Associated Press that a Taiwanese foreign ministry official told him Thursday that Taiwan had decided to nix the Iranian application, which is believed to have been made earlier this year.

"The official told me that Taiwan would reject an Iranian request to open a liaison office in Taipei," said Gamzou, head of Israel's representative office in Taipei.

A Taiwanese foreign ministry official said the request was still under consideration, and acknowledged that the decision will take into account Washington's position.

"We are still in the process of a full deliberation on the establishment of an Iranian office in Taiwan," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to discuss the matter with the press.

"Of course we acknowledge the importance of Iran as a commercial partner. But in the process we will take into account the opinion of many good friends, especially the United States." The de facto American embassy in Taiwan declined to comment on whether the U.S. had pressured Taiwan to reject the Iranian office. In normal circumstances Taiwan would leap at the opportunity to expand its international ties, which are severely limited by China's insistence that foreign countries steer clear of the island diplomatically.

The two sides split amid civil war in 1949, and Beijing continues to insist that Taiwan is part of its territory, with no independent sovereignty.

But Taiwan is also mindful of pressure from the United States, which despite shifting recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, provides Taiwan the bulk of its weapons systems and has hinted it could come to its aid if China ever followed through with long-standing threats to attack it.

Complicating the matter for Taiwan are its close commercial ties with Iran, which center on oil imports.

Both the US and Israel are fiercely committed to limiting Iran's diplomatic space, as part of a larger effort to stymie what they say is an effort by the Middle Eastern nation to produce nuclear weapons.

Washington is leading an international effort to toughen existing sanctions on Iran because of its alleged nuclear weapons program, and repeated threats from its president to work toward Israel's destruction.

Iran denies it is building a bomb, insisting that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.