In a move aimed at lowering simmering tension, Taiwan had said on Friday it would relax its ban on indirect flights from China for the coming Lunar New Year holiday.
  
"This is a substantial overture showing our goodwill. We hope China will take it seriously," said Shi Hwei-yow, vice-chairman of the semi-official Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF).

Taiwan operated the first indirect flights to the mainland early this year with six flights from Taipei to Shanghai, stopping in Hong Kong and Macau.

They were the first transport link between the island and mainland since the two split in 1949 after a civil war.
  
Taiwan carriers plan to repeat the service from 9 January to 2 February and hope to expand to other cities including Beijing.

However, Taiwan Premier Yu Shyi-kun told parliament that semi-official bodies which represent the two sides must meet for the first time in eight years to discuss the flights. 

Waiting for go-ahead
  
The SEF will make a formal request for negotiations with the mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) as soon as it gets the government's official go-ahead, Shi said.
  
"We need to talk to make the necessary arrangements," he added.

The offer comes amid rising tensions over a plan by the island to allow referendums, which China fears will open the door to Taiwan changing its constitution and pushing towards independence.
  
A top Beijing policy-maker said on Wednesday that "the use of force may become unavoidable" if Taiwan openly engages in pro-independence activities - China's harshest statement on the issue in three years.