"If they are committed to having meaningful dialogue, address the needs of the Tibetan people, then of course, the Tibetan representatives are happy to meet with the Chinese people in order to find a mutually agreeable solution," Takla said.
 
The statement, released by Xinhua, China's state media, on Friday, gave no details on a time or place for the talks, nor who they would involve.
 
Instead, it repeated long-established pre-conditions, including that the Dalai Lama unambiguously recognise Tibet as a part of China.

The Dalai Lama, 72, returned to India on Saturday, after a visit to the US to attend the Seeds of Compassion conference in Seattle.

The Nobel Peace laureate has been based in Dharamsala, a town in northern India, since fleeing Tibet following a failed uprising there against Beijing in 1959.

He has said the Chinese are guilty of "cultural genocide" and religious repression in the Himalayan region.

Olympic caution

Critics of China's announcement have said the offer to engage in dialogue with representatives of the Dalai Lama was just a public-relations exercise in advance of the Beijing Olympics in August.

Protests about last month's crackdown in the Himalayan region have cast a shadow over the worldwide Olympic torch relay, which China had hoped would symbolise its rising status and pride in hosting the Games.

Critics say China's announcement of dialogue is
just a PR exercise before the Olympics [AFP]

Referring to China's talks offer, Anand Ojha, a political analyst at Delhi University, said: "Who says China has blinked?

"This invitation takes the wind out of the Tibetans' campaign of protests ahead of the Olympics, which was becoming a matter of huge concern for China."

China has blamed the Dalai Lama for anti-Chinese riots that erupted in Lhasa, Tibet's capital, on March 14.

Despite a death toll of 150 people claimed by Tibetan leaders in India, Beijing insists that nobody died as it restored order, and instead that Tibetan rioters killed 20 people.

Powerless division

Observers have said the failure of past rounds of secretive talks is due to the fact that Chinese negotiators were from a powerless division of a Communist Party body created to foster unity with overseas Chinese.

Andrew Fischer, a Tibetologist at the London School of Economics, said: "The first indication of how serious China is will be if they send out someone more senior with real and substantive negotiating power.

"As long as it's the United Front, this is unlikely to be more than just a dialogue," he said, referring to a broad coalition of political groups that include trade unions and youth groups.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies