CHINA - The First Cross-Straits Peace Forum involving think tanks from the Chinese mainland and Taiwan has broken the ice in grassroots political dialogue. Participants hoped the forum will influence policymaking and consultation.
"This is the first time both sides are holding such large-scale discussions on political issues," National Society on Taiwan Studies executive vice-president Zhou Zhihuai told the closing ceremony.
"This creative grassroots dialogue is very successful, and it will warm up exchange in the future."
The forum released 10 points of consensus developed by the participants, including breaking the deadlock of the cross-Straits political relationship; building a stable and peaceful development framework; reducing friction between the two sides on foreign affairs; and cooperating in maritime security and non-traditional security fields.
The note also listed seven areas of major disagreements that need further research and discussion. These included the content and measures of formally ending hostility across the Straits, and specific steps and measures to build the cross-Straits military security confidence mechanism.
Organizers from both sides announced the second forum would be held in Taiwan in 2014.
"For more than a decade, where political issues are concerned, we have always said, 'let's put aside disputes and tackle the easy problems first, and the difficult ones later'," Taiwan's 21st Century Foundation chairman Kao Yu-jen said.
It is the first time think tanks from both the Pan-Blue pro-Kuomintang and the Pan-Green opposition coalition are attending the forum, although they may still be disagreeing on simple things like the wording of documents, he said.
"Communication during this forum has been sincere and without preset positions," Taiwan Brain Trust chairman Wu Rong-i said. His organisation is considered a think tank serving the Pan-Green Coalition.
Analysts said the peace forum's founding indicates a gradual push toward the peace framework's institutionalization to replace confrontation with equal consultation.
The cross-Straits relationship has been greatly enhanced since the Ma Ying-jeou-led Kuomintang took office in Taiwan in 2008.
President Xi Jinping met Taiwan politician Vincent Siew last week during the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Indonesia. Xi urged both sides to settle political disparities and prevent them from being handed down "from generation to generation".
Earlier at the forum, mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office director Zhang Zhijun met the head of Taiwan's mainland affairs department, Wang Yu-chi.
Some analysts said the unprecedented discussion has paved the way for a meeting between Xi and Ma, and this could lead to a breakthrough in cross-Straits relationship.
The forum notes that such a meeting will actively influence cross-Straits - and world - peace and that both sides should make efforts to realise a meeting based on mutual respect and understanding.