EU foreign policy chief meets with Burma’s Suu Kyi

April 29th, 2012 - 12:44 am ICT by BNO News  

YANGON, MYANMAR (BNO NEWS) — European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Saturday visited Burma, which is officially known as Myanmar, where she met with Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and opened a EU office.

Ashton met with six senior government officials, Burmese president Thein Sein and students before visiting the headquarters of the National League of Democracy (NLD) where she met with Suu Kyi and other opposition members. The visit aims to mark a new beginning in the bilateral relations between the EU and Burma, which is moving closer to democracy.

“It is a great privilege and honor to be here,” Ashton said during a press conference, standing next to Suu Kyi who won the Nobel peace prize in 1991 for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights. “First of all our message of support for the changes that are taking place and recognition of the prominent role that you, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, have played in getting us to this point.”

Ashton said the European Union will support Burma’s move to democracy through both short-term and long-term development. “You are in a process - a process of change - and I hope we will see all the elements coming into place and that this will be an irreversible process,” she said. “On that journey many things will need to be done, many things will need to be worked out. [..] Some of them will be more difficult than others.”

During the inauguration of the Office of the European Union to Myanmar, Ashton stressed that the office demonstrates the EU’s commitment to the ongoing reform process. “I hope you will see our office as a symbol of the European Union, its 27 Members States, its institutions that demonstrate the commitment of the EU to this country and to the political process that is now underway,” she said.

Myanmar held its first elections in 20 years in November 2010, paving the way for the end to 49 years of military rule. The country has undergone a rapid number of political changes in the past year, including the loosening of press laws, legalizing the right to demonstrate and organize as workers, the release of leading political prisoners, and ethnic cease-fire agreements.

Earlier this week, EU foreign ministers agreed to suspend most sanctions against Burma for 12 months, with the exception of the arms embargo. “The Council will monitor closely the situation on the ground, keep its measures under constant review and respond positively to progress on ongoing reforms,” the EU said on Monday, adding that it still demands the release of remaining political prisoners, improved access for humanitarian assistance and an end to all conflict.

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