Gambia breaks off diplomatic ties with Taiwan

Gambia on Thursday announced that it had abruptly broken off diplomatic relations with Taiwan. established over the past 18 years, for reasons to do with the "national strategic interest".

The announcement to "review and disengage" relations was made by the president Yahya Jammeh, who said the break in diplomatic ties would come into force with immediate effect.

However despite the announcement, the president said Gambia wanted to "remain friends" with the Taiwanese people

A statement issued by the President's office, read: "This decision has been taken in our strategic national interest.

"We are proud that we have been a very strong and reliable partner of the Republic of China for the past 18 years, the results of which are there for every Taiwanese to see.

"Despite the end of diplomatic ties with Taiwan, we will still remain friends with the people of Taiwan."

Gambia and Taiwan established diplomatic relations in July 1995.

It remained unclear Thursday if the severing of ties was linked to the development of relations with China, which has a growing influence in Africa, and if there was any pressure exerted on Gambia to cut ties with Taiwan.

In Gambia, Taiwan worked in the areas of rice cultivation, supplying medical equipment and road building.

Taiwan was separated in 1949 from mainland China, at the end of a civil war between communists and nationalists. Beijing refuses to recognise its sovereignty.

Initially, a majority of African states recognised the Taipei government but their number has steadily eroded.

Gambia's decision means that Swaziland, Sao Tome and Principe and Burkina Faso are the only African countries who remain allies with Taiwan