Mon, Jan 16, 2012 - Page 5 News List

EU to reward Myanmar for reforms

AFP, YANGON, MYANMAR

France’s foreign minister said yesterday that the EU would respond “in concrete terms” to recent reforms by Myanmar’s regime, after a historic meeting with pro--democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe is the highest level French diplomat to ever visit the country, long criticized by the West for its human rights record and ruled outright by the military for almost five decades until last year.

The nominally civilian government that took power last year has surprised observers with a series of reformist moves, including dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition, which was recently allowed to re-register as a political party.

“Like the rest of the international community, we have observed with a lot of attention the positive signs given by [Burmese] President Thein Sein,” Juppe said.

“We will respond — France and the EU — positively and in concrete terms to these significant gestures,” he told reporters after meeting Aung San Suu Kyi at the lakeside home where she was detained for most of the past two decades.

It was unclear whether he was alluding to a relaxation of EU sanctions on the regime, whose recent reforms have surprised even skeptics.

On Friday, the regime released about 300 political prisoners, including several prominent dissidents, a day after signing a ceasefire with a major armed Karen ethnic minority group.

“We hope that these new developments will reinforce the process of democratization and national reconciliation,” Aung San Suu Kyi, who was freed by the regime in November 2010, said after her talks with Juppe.

“One of our main concerns is to achieve an end to the ethnic conflicts,” she added.

Juppe was due to award Aung San Suu Kyi with one of France’s highest honors, Commander in the National Order of the Legion d’Honneur, at a ceremony yesterday, in recognition of her long struggle for democracy.

Today, Juppe will hold talks in the capital, Naypyidaw, with Thein Sein, whose government is eager to see the end of sanctions imposed on the regime by the US and the EU since the late 1990s.

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