ASHTON URGES MYANMAR TO MAKE ITS PROGRESS TOWARDS DEMOCRACY
- The EU's chief diplomat urged Myanmar to make its progress towards democracy "irreversible" after meeting Aung San Suu Kyi Saturday, April 28 amid Western efforts to bolster reforms in the former pariah state, AFP reports.
Catherine Ashton's visit for talks with the newly-elected opposition leader and government comes days after the EU suspended a wide range of sanctions against the long-isolated country to reward its recent political reforms.
Ashton, who hailed a "new chapter" in relations with Myanmar Friday, met Suu Kyi in Yangon as the Nobel laureate and her party grapples with a dispute over a swearing-in oath that saw them delay their parliamentary debut this week.
"This is a process of change. I hope that we will see all the elements come into place to make it an irreversible process that can move forward," Ashton said at a press conference when asked about the oath impasse.
"On that journey there will be many things that need to be done, many things that need to be worked out," EU's foreign policy chief added.
Myanmar, which languished for decades under a repressive junta, has seen a thawing in its relations with the international community as a result of reforms since a controversial 2010 election brought a civilian government to power - albeit one with close links to the military.
The European Union has responded to what it said were "historic changes" in Myanmar by suspending for one year a wide range of trade, economic and individual sanctions, although it left intact an arms embargo.
Ashton is also set to open a new EU office in Yangon that diplomats say will mostly oversee the management of aid programs but also have a political role.
Speaking in Brunei on Friday at the end of a meeting of European and Southeast Asian foreign ministers and senior diplomats, Ashton said it would be a "first step" towards establishing a full delegation.
Ashton, who will hold talks with President Thein Sein in the capital Naypyidaw on Monday, told reporters that she would "welcome the way in which he is moving forward" and "urge him to do more" at the meeting.
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