Representatives of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, are in Beijing to meet with Chinese authorities for their first talks in 15 months on the political status of Tibet.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu confirmed that the talks between the Chinese government and envoys from the Dalai Lama are to take place. He says the Dalai Lama's side requested the meeting.
Ma calls on the Dalai Lama to, in his words, "cherish this opportunity and respond positively" to the Chinese government.
However, he gave little other information and referred to the Ministry of United Front Work, which handles issues concerning Tibet.
The new talks were welcomed by the United States and Britain.
“The United States was pleased to learn that the Dalai Lama's Special Envoys arrived today in China for their ninth round of meetings with Chinese officials. The United States strongly supports dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama's representatives to address longstanding differences. The Administration hopes this meeting will produce positive results and provide a foundation for future discussions to resolve outstanding issues,” the US Department of State said in a statement posted on its web site on Monday.
The United Kingdom's junior foreign office minister Ivan Lewis said: "I urge both sides to enter these talks in good faith and to make progress towards meaningful autonomy for Tibet."
"Peaceful dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama's representatives is the only way to bring about a lasting and peaceful solution to the problems in Tibet,” Lewis was quoted as saying by Agence-France Presse.
"I made this clear during my own visit to Tibet and Beijing last year," he added.
The Chinese government accuses Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama seeking Tibetan independence. The Dalai Lama denies those charges, saying he only wants greater cultural and religious autonomy for his homeland.
Tibetan exiles accuse the Chinese government of discriminating against and repressing Tibetans in Chinese territory.
In a move that is certain to anger China, the White House says President Barack Obama intends to meet with the Dalai Lama in the near future. China has long tried to isolate the spiritual leader and pressures other governments to avoid contact with him.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.