The World This Week: Old foes bury the hatchet

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The Independent Online
SENIOR representatives of China and Taiwan get together in Singapore tomorrow and Wednesday for the first time since the Chinese Revolution of 1949. The economies of both countries are booming and unofficial trade between the two antagonists has grown so much that both sides feel it is time to end the political silence between Taipei and Peking.

Taiwanese attitudes have softened as the old hardline Nationalists have died off, and China is more interested in eventually incorporating Taiwan than in what happens in Hong Kong. One of the few constraints upon China's attitude towards Hong Kong is the fear that any perceived bullying of Britain's colony might frighten off Taiwan.

The negotiators are expected to sign an agreement covering communications, energy, fishing, cracking down on crime and the repatriation of illegal migrants. Taiwan's call for the protection of its investments in mainland China is expected to to be heeded.

Another longstanding antagonism is gradually being overcome in South Africa with the resumption of multi- party democracy talks in Johannesburg today.

The government spokesman says he expects agreements by the end of May on an election date and the framework for a transfer of white power to a non- racial government of national unity. Cyril Ramaphosa, the African National Congress secretary-general, warned: 'If we do not deliver in that time, the whole negotiation process will become discredited.'

Also engaged in a race against time, the Middle East peace talks resume in Washington tomorrow. Syria, Lebanon and Jordan are to attend the US-sponsored talks with Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation. The talks were delayed when the Arabs objected to Israel sealing off the Gaza Strip and West Bank and failing to allow the return of Palestinians expelled into no man's land adjoining southern Lebanon.

In Italy the agony goes on. President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro will announce the new prime minister today, unless his plans are upset by continuing bickering among the ruling Socialists and Christian Democrats and the former Communists. The formation of the new government is expected to be announced in the course of the week. Meanwhile, the trial of the Mafia boss Toto Riina resumes today in Palermo; the Senate Commission considering lifting the immunity of the former prime minister Giulio Andreotti reconvenes tomorrow, and on Thursday parliament votes on whether to lift the immunity of the former Socialist leader Bettino Craxi.

There is an international preoccupation with 'green tourism' this week: how tourist development can be harmonised with policies that prevent damage to the environment.

At a conference on the island of Rhodes on Thursday and Friday, officials from more than 20 European countries will try to reconcile tourism with environmental protection. And European environment ministers meet in Lucerne on Thursday and Friday to discuss environmental co-operation between East and West Europe.

As an exercise in environmental consciousness-raising among golfers, Thursday has been declared World No-Golf Day in protest against damage caused by the construction of golf courses, especially in the Third World. Campaigners say the proliferation of golf courses, especially in Asia, pollutes the environment with toxic fertilisers, uses up precious water and forces local people off their land.