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Latvia, Estonia Withdraw From China Cooperation Group

Latvia, Estonia Withdraw From China Cooperation Group

VILNIUS, Aug 11 (Reuters) – Latvia and Estonia have withdrawn from a cooperation framework between China and over a dozen Central and Eastern European countries on Thursday, following in the footsteps of Lithuania which withdrew last May.

The move comes during Western criticism towards China for escalating military pressure on Taiwan, a democratically-ruled island that China claims as its own territory.

“Past participation in the 16+1 format has not yielded the desired economic results,” Latvia’s Foreign Ministry told Reuters.

Relations between Lithuania and China worsened after the Baltic nation allowed Taiwan to open a de facto embassy late last year.

“Latvia’s continued participation in the China-led Cooperation framework with Central and Eastern European countries is no longer in line with our strategic objectives in the current international environment,” it added.

In statements published Thursday, both countries said they would continue to work towards “constructive and pragmatic relations with China” while respecting the rules-based international order and human rights.

Estonia’s Foreign Ministry was not immediately available to comment further.

The Chinese embassies in Riga, Latvia and Tallinn, Estonia did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The European Union regards China as a strategic rival in some areas, but seeks to encourage Beijing to reform trade rules at the World Trade Organization. This is despite Beijing sanctioning some European Parliament members and punishing Lithuania economically.

Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia remain in the cooperation format.