Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Russia Urges Burma to Cooperate with UN

The Irrawaddy News

Russia’s ambassador to Burma has told Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win that Moscow will be in a better position to support the Naypyidaw regime if it cooperates with UN special envoy Ibraham Gambari, according to a leaked written account of their meeting.

The secret document, leaked to The Irrawaddy by a Burmese Foreign Ministry source, said the Russian ambassador, Mikhail Mgeladze, reassured Nyan Win of Moscow’s continuing support, while urging cooperation with the UN. The two met on December 6 at Nyan Win’s office in Rangoon.

Gambari has a standing invitation from Burma’s ruling junta to visit the country, but he has shown reluctance to return in view of the regime’s recent crackdown on the pro-democracy leadership, ignoring appeals from the international community.

Last week, the UN said there was no immediate plan for Gambari to visit Burma in the near future.

“He has no plans immediately to go to Myanmar [Burma],” Michele Montas, spokeswoman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York.

Ban himself was earlier scheduled to visit Burma in December, but cancelled his trip after the Burmese military junta went back on its words and intensified its crackdown on pro-democracy activists.

“He [Ban] is not going to go there just for the sake of going. He has to have some indications that his visit will mean something,” Montas said.

The Russian ambassador’s meeting with Nyan Win was seen as quiet diplomatic pressure on the regime to cooperate with the UN.

Mgeladze restated Moscow’s position, however, that the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, the opening of a dialogue between Snr Gen Than Shwe and Suu Kyi and the presence of independent monitors at the 2010 election are only internal matters, the leaked document disclosed.

The Russian ambassador also said that he would not support six-party talks on Burma along the lines of this year’s North Korea initiative. A similar Burma initiative has been proposed by some dissidents.

Nyan Win told Mgeladze that the Burmese government would not accept such a proposal. Burma and North Korea were different matters, he said.

Nyan Win told the ambassador that Burma’s two major allies, China and India, also opposed the six-party talks proposal.

The meeting between Nyan Win and Mgeladze also dealt with trade relations between Burma and the West. The two officials shared a view that France and Germany are interested in economic cooperation with the regime, although America and the UK take a tougher policy toward Burma.

The Russian ambassador assured Nyan Win that his government intended to strengthen its economic and diplomatic cooperation with the regime.

Burma and Russia celebrated this year the 60th anniversary of their mutual diplomatic relations, which were established with an exchange of notes in February 1948 at the embassy of the Soviet Union in London.

Burma’s late dictator Gen Ne Win developed a close relationship with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in the 1960s, sending socialist cadres to the Soviet Union to study socialism. Khrushchev visited Burma in 1960.

About 1500 students, mostly military officers, are currently studying in 11 institutions in Russia. Some 500 Burmese students have so far obtained degrees, including doctorates, in Russia, according to the Russian embassy in Burma.

Burma’s army chief and regime No 2, Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye, visited Russia in April 2006.

Burma has brought a 10 mega watt nuclear reactor and MiG 29 jet fighters from Russia.

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