01/15/2005, 00.00
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China, Taiwan agree on charter flights

Macao (AsiaNews/Agencies) - China and Taiwan aviation officials agreed to resume charter flights for the Lunar New Year next month, allowing six Chinese mainland airlines to fly to the island for the first time in more than half a century. The one-off deal was announced at a joint news conference in Macau.

Chinese negotiator Pu Zhaozhou said the charter flights will take place from Jan. 29 to Feb. 20.

The flights from the Chinese mainland would leave from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, while China-bound flights would depart from Taipei and Kaohsiung, Pu added.

The Charter flights would carry hundreds of Taiwanese who work or study in China back home for the weeklong New Year holiday, which begins Feb. 8. The celebration is the year's biggest in ethnic Chinese societies.

The deal would be the biggest breakthrough between Taiwan and China in years. It could produce a thaw in tensions in one of Asia's most dangerous flashpoints.

Taiwanese and Chinese airlines haven't flown direct flights since a civil war split the two sides in 1949. Taiwan has banned direct flights, citing security concerns with China, which has repeatedly threatened to attack. Previous attempts to run direct flights have faltered, notably in 2003, when charter planes were forced to divert to Hong Kong and Macau in order not to travel directly between China and Taiwan.

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