Lithuania's government hopes that the statement published by China on Tuesday will pave way for trade and economic cooperation, as well as put an end to diplomatic tensions that started when the Dalai Lama visited Vilnius 18 months ago.
Beijing
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"The official statement published by China about the country's willingness to develop friendly relations with Lithuania means a new phase of cooperation, we expect the relations to continue improving and the potential for economic cooperation to expand – we are very positive," Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius told BNS via his spokeswoman.

He highlighted relations in the fields of agriculture, transport, infrastructure and education, emphasizing that the "relations between the countries should be built on mutual respect".

Konstantinas Andrijauskas, a political scientist at Vilnius University's International Relations and Political Sciences Institute, said he also expected "that the issues of the most interest to Lithuania would now be addressed".

In his words, the most urgent problems for Lithuania include frozen imports of Lithuanian food products and academic exchange.

The issue of the statement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry two months after the meeting of prime ministers is a bureaucratic element, said the political scientist, as assessment of matters of particular significance and sensitivity for China often takes a long time.

Andrijauskas also said that Lithuania's importance to China is due to our country's stance on the Ukrainian crisis.

"I believe the Chinese find very interesting the Lithuanian position and what Lithuania does in international forums. Particularly, keeping in mind that Lithuania has over the past several years acquired a voice that the Chinese believe is disproportionate to the size of our country. The mechanisms, such as the European Council and, in particular, Lithuania's membership in the United Nations Security Council, are important factors and they naturally capture China's attention. It is highly interested in how small countries, such as Lithuania, may behave in such situations," the political scientist told BNS.

He stated that Lithuania may expect "more respect but not necessarily support" from China.

"Sovereignty and territorial integrity are China's holy mantra, it is not giving it up. It tends to take advantage of the burdened Russian economic and political situation for personal gain and economic and political dividend," Andrijauskas told BNS.

"I believe this should not hinder (bilateral relations). We should not make the mistake of thinking that China is sincere and unconditional Russian ally. Countries, such as China, have no true allies at all. (...) The Ukrainian crisis does not mean that China will start clashing with Lithuania over it – definitely not, the context is entirely different," he added.

Earlier on Tuesday, China's Foreign Ministry said it was willing to develop friendly relations with Lithuania, which had deteriorated after President Dalia Grybauskaitė met with Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in Vilnius 18 months ago.

The ministry said that China took into consideration the position stated by Lithuanian PM Butkevičius in a meeting with his Chinese counterpart last December that Lithuania "respects China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and is also committed to 'one China' policy, considering Tibet an integral part of China".

BNS
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