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26th Sep 2022

Estonia and Latvia sever China club ties

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Latvia and Estonia have joined Lithuania in sharply reducing ties with China after pulling out of a diplomatic club set up by Beijing in 2012.

Both Riga and Tallinn on Thursday (11 August) issued similar worded statements on the withdrawal, noting however they would still strive "for constructive and pragmatic" relations with China.

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But the latest move means the so-called 16+1 eastern European framework with China is now reduced to 14.

"China's 17+1 format was already redundant and divisive long before Lithuania quit," said Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania's minister of foreign affairs.

"Latvia and Estonia are now closing the door too. 14+1 should be replaced with EU27+1," he added.

The Baltic states' grievances include trade imbalances with China, Beijing's war rhetoric against the democracy stronghold in Taiwan, as well as its cosy relations with Moscow.

The latter has spooked the three Baltic nations, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in late February.

Latvia's parliament, also on Thursday, declared Russia a state sponsor for terrorism.

"Russia has long deserved this status with its actions in Ukraine and beyond," said Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine's minister of foreign affairs.

It also means Latvia will no longer issue tourist visas to Russian and Belarusian citizens. Estonia has also stopped issuing the visas, amid calls for other EU states to follow suit.

For its part, Lithuania pulled out of the China platform last year after it had set up a representative office in Taiwan.

Beijing responded by banning Lithuanian products, in a move described by a Vilnius as "economic coercion".

Lithuania was also the only EU state to publicly support US House speaker Nancy Pelosi's recent visit to Taiwan.

Agnė Vaiciukevičiūtė, Lithuania's deputy minister for transport, had also made a visit.

The trips had triggered another bout of aggressive rhetoric from Beijing, which views Taiwan as part of China.

Remaining 14+1 China club members include several EU states: Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

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