Sarkozy heads to Olympic ceremony, awards Beijing 'gold medal'

French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday left for Beijing for the opening of the Olympics, after awarding China a "gold medal" for hosting the Games in a bid to mend ties frayed by his initial boycott threat, the AFP reported.

Though welcomed by Beijing, Sarkozy's visit has drawn fierce attacks from rights groups, with media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) accusing him of "surrendering" to the Chinese authorities.

Paris authorities issued a last-minute ban on a planned RSF rally outside the Chinese embassy Friday, to prevent a repeat of the "violent disturbances" that marked the passage of the Olympic flame through Paris.

But media watchdog Reporters Without Borders appealed the ruling, with a court decision due at 10:30 am (0830 GMT) Friday, but urged its supporters to gather in any case on the Champs Elysees Avenue, just outside the security perimeter.

A separate rally called by human rights groups at the Trocadero plaza, across the River Seine from the Eiffel Tower, will also go ahead as planned Friday at 1:00 pm (1100 GMT).

Human rights activists have criticised Sarkozy's final decision to attend the Olympic ceremony, which he justified by noting progress in talks between China and the Dalai Lama.

Sarkozy had threatened to shun the Olympic event following a Chinese crackdown on unrest in Tibet in March, but finally decided last month to attend after noting progress in talks between China and the Dalai Lama.

The French leader's linking of the Olympics to the situation in Tibet provoked a months-long diplomatic spat with Beijing, and helped fuel a wave of protests targeting French commercial interests in China.

Speaking to China's Xinhua news agency Wednesday, Sarkozy made no reference to human rights or Tibet, paying tribute instead to his country's "historic, unfailing and immovable friendship" with Beijing.

"My presence in Beijing will confirm it once more: the friendship between France and China is a fundamental axis of France's foreign policy," Sarkozy said, adding that China deserved a "gold medal" for its Olympic preparations.

In a further effort to rebuild bridges, Sarkozy's office announced he would not meet the Dalai Lama when the Tibetan spiritual leader visits France from August 11 to 23, a trip scheduled before the incidents in Tibet.

The prospect of a meeting had continued to feed tensions with Beijing, whose ambassador in Paris warned of "serious consequences" for bilateral relations.

Sarkozy, who will represent the European Union at the Olympics ceremony as holder of the six-month presidency of the bloc, is expected in Beijing at 11:30 am (0330 GMT) Friday for a flying visit of less than 12 hours.

RSF took out full-page ads in several French newspapers Thursday, carrying the photographs of jailed dissidents and asking Sarkozy to honour a "promise" to demand their release from China.

Former French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, one of the delegation of politicians, businessmen and athletes accompanying Sarkozy, insisted he would not shirk the rights issue.

He said Sarkozy was "going in the name of the French republic and its values" and that "he will talk about dissidents, as we have always done" when he meets Hu and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

"We are asking for progress on human rights, and that is something to be done looking each other straight in the eye, face to face... You don't talk to the Chinese via newspaper articles."

"One cannot boycott a quarter of humanity," he added in defence of the president's attendance.

Sarkozy's boycott threat, together with the Olympic torch fiasco in Paris, sparked a wave of anti-French rallies in China. Pickets targeted the retail giant Carrefour and travel agents scrapped France from their list of destinations.

Carrefour's chief executive Jose Luis Duran is also part of the delegation accompanying Sarkozy, underscoring the French business community's eagerness to draw a line under the Olympic spat.

But France's left-wing opposition has accused Sarkozy of flip-flopping in his dealings with Beijing, sapping France's international credibility.

Both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown are staying away from the Olympic ceremony, although neither drew an explicit link with the situation in Tibet -- thus avoiding China's ire.

Socialist deputy Pierre Moscovici suggested the shortness of his trip was "perhaps a sign of embarrassment."

Uzbekistan, Tajikistan to maintain Uzbek energy and water resources balance
Uzbekistan, Tajikistan to maintain Uzbek energy and water resources balance
Turkmenistan to help Afghanistan complete railway to Tajikistan border
Turkmenistan to help Afghanistan complete railway to Tajikistan border
Issue of restoring operation of Central Asian Unified Energy System under consideration
Issue of restoring operation of Central Asian Unified Energy System under consideration
Loading Bars
Azerbaijani president: According to our intelligence, very serious military training under way
President Ilham Aliyev: Armenia is preparing for war
President Ilham Aliyev: Region has not become a safer place, unfortunately, situation is deteriorating
US embassy in Azerbaijan urges to reconsider non-essential travel outside Absheron Peninsula
Global COVID-19 death toll could hit two million before vaccine in wide use: WHO
'Intellectual Field' to allow stabilize production level in Kazakhstan
Iran's auto giants to talk over hybrid vehicles production
Azerbaijani ministry discloses volume of toxic emissions from cars
Georgian expert: Armenian authorities controlling separatist regime in Karabakh crossed red line
Azerbaijani minister of economy reviews activity of industrial enterprises in Ganja (PHOTO)
Volume of maritime cargo transshipment from Portugal via Turkey disclosed
Tactical-special and combat training classes underway in Azerbaijan (PHOTO/VİDEO)
EBRD and FAO to assist Georgia in field of agro tourism
STAR Refinery has dynamic decision-making process on oil purchases
Uzbekistan to be supplied with Russian coronavirus vaccines
Uzbekistan, Tajikistan to maintain Uzbek energy and water resources balance
Azerbaijan’s Bakcell preparing discounts for teachers within project
UK study shows rapid test has diagnostic sensitivity over 99%
Kazakhstan's grain export volume revealed
Amazon hiring 150 employees in Israel
Baku Higher Oil School on top of grade ranking among universities in Azerbaijan
Mortgage lending via state line in Azerbaijan up
Russia leading exporter of polymer products to Turkmenistan
Volume of deposits up in Georgia
September occupancies up in Georgian regional hotels
Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan strengthening co-op in medical tourism
Rates of dollarization on loans and deposits up in Georgia
Volume of deposits in Azerbaijan grows
Russia increases exports of frozen vegetables to Turkmenistan
Bakcell talks about network congestion and secure internet
Azerbaijani banks increase lending to clients
Iranian government is modernizing agriculture in Tehran Province
Italy lowers import of Turkish cars
Loans and deposits, expressed as percentage of GDP, increase in Georgia
Netherlands increase export volume to Kazakhstan year-on-year
Georgian hazelnuts exports up
Azerbaijan's Anglo Asian Mining reveals 1H2020 income
Several industrial projects to be implemented in Kazakhstan's Almaty
Azerbaijan's Azexport portal to place insurance services
Sooner Armenia withdraws its armed forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, sooner the conflict will be resolved (PHOTO)
Moscow reports 1,560 new coronavirus cases, highest since June 12
Azerbaijani schoolchildren perform successfully at 32nd International Olympiad in Informatics (PHOTO)
Azerbaijan confirms 137 more COVID-19 recoveries
ADB: Developed capital markets enhance financial stability in Azerbaijan
Covid-19 daily infections swell 12% to new record
Energy efficiency to be increased at Uzbek manufacturing enterprises
Shell books tanker to load crude at Libya's Zueitina oil port
Turkmenistan’s Oil Refineries extends tender for gasoline purchase
Kazakhstan's QazTech Ventures to fund Uzbek startups
Gas exports from Azerbaijan to Turkey significantly up
VTB Bank, Entrepreneurship Development Fund of Azerbaijan issuing loans to businesses
Azerbaijani FM receives ambassador of Greece
Vietnam interested in import of Azerbaijani products
EU working with Georgian partners to strengthen cybersecurity in country
Azerbaijani ministry talks introduction of contactless payment in public transport in districts
Central Bank of Azerbaijan to hold deposit auction
Azerbaijan discloses data on tobacco exports for 2019
BP: Oil demand to remain central part of energy system for next 10–15 years
Azerbaijani MP: Armenia resettling terrorists to Nagorno-Karabakh region, facts prove ASALA's presence
Apple says has always abided by Irish law as EU appeals court ruling
Precious metal prices in Azerbaijan up again after decline
Iran assigns housing units to low income
Money supply increased in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan to export fuel diesel to Pakistan
Georgia reveals volume of premiums attracted by insurance companies
UN highlights Azerbaijani president’s speech at 75th session of UN General Assembly
Kazakhstan's largest oil pipeline company to buy power stations via tender
LNG demand to double over next 20 years
Volume of gas production by Turkmenistan’s Lebapgazchykarysh revealed
Expert talks putting Azerbaijan's domestic tourism back on its feet
Deputy FM: Rejecting proposals to resolve conflict, Armenian leadership makes negotiations meaningless
Road in border village of Azerbaijan’s Gazakh district being overhauled (PHOTO)
Israeli politician: We find Azerbaijan a good friend of Israel
Around 6,000 people internationally wanted by Russia
Buffett-following investment trust to list in London
EU Special Representative: EU has strong interest in peace, stability in South Caucasus
Georgia reports 265 new cases of coronavirus
Instagram fixes breach found by Check Point
US’ share in Azerbaijan's total imports grows
FAO provides strategic support for Uzbek Agriculture Ministry
Conference of the People’s Council of Turkmenistan was held at the high organizational level
Italian geopolitical analyst: Mechanism needed for implementation of UNSC resolutions on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
Turkmenistan to expand areas for growing crops
Azerbaijani oil prices down
Georgia, Azerbaijan united by energy and transport projects of international importance
President Ilham Aliyev receives EU Special Representative (PHOTO)
Chairman Israel Empowerment Lobby: Azerbaijan tolerates all religions
Electronic Water Portal launched in Azerbaijan (PHOTO)
Agro Service: Azerbaijan has no shortage in fertilizers
Сoordinated fake news attacks on Azerbaijan debunked (PHOTO)
Georgia takes part in high-level Open Government Summit together with world leaders
Belarus raises goods export to Azerbaijan
Georgia hosts Cyber ​​Security Forum
Demand for Turkish clothing in Georgian market declines
Turkmenistan working to improve transport macrostructure
Azerbaijani Ambassador presents his credentials to President of Mexico
Georgia to start producing anti-hail nets for orchards
German export expectations hit highest level since October 2018
President Ilham Aliyev: Non-fulfillment of Security Council resolutions undermines prestige of UN
Irish foreign minster says EU-UK trade deal breakthrough possible
All news