Thursday, May 21, 2009

EU discusses Burma with China

by Salai Pi Pi

New Delhi (Mizzima) - The European Union has talked to China about military ruled Burma, which was one of the regional issues in the bilateral summit held in Prague, capital of Czech Republic on Wednesday.

Burma was among the many issues ranging from global challenges including the financial crisis, climate change, and international affairs which EU officials and Chinese representatives discussed for nearly two hours, according to a Joint Press communique of the 11th China-EU Summit released on May 20.

“Discussions focused on China-EU relations, the global economic and financial crisis, climate change and energy security as well as an exchange of views on regional issues [Korean Peninsula, Myanmar, Iran, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Pakistan],” said joint statement of China-EU Summit.

It did not reveal the details of the discussion on Burma by China’s Premier Wen Jiabao led delegates and EU officials represented by President Václav Klaus of the Czech Republic, the rotating EU presidency.

Meanwhile, Harn Yawnghwe, Director of the Brussels based Euro-Burma office said, the main issues in the discussions on Burma in yesterday’s summit could be the Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial and seeking the help of China to pressurize the Burmese military regime for political change in Burma.

“Possibly, regarding Burma, they had talked of Aung San Suu Kyi and China’s help to pressurize Burma,” Yawnghwe told Mizzima on Thursday.

However, Deutsche Presse Agentur, on Wednesday reported that EU and China failed to bridge the difference on areas including Myanmar, North Korea, Taiwan, climate change, trade liberalization and minority rights.

Wen Jiabao called on the 27 countries bloc to expand "practical cooperation" instead of pushing China to change its position on international as well as internal affairs, the report said.

EU, which imposed measures such as economic sanctions, an arms embargo and visa ban on Burmese military officials and their family members, on Monday said it is looking for possibilities of applying fresh sanctions against the Burmese regime after Noble Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was put on a trial for an allegedly harbouring a US citizen, John William Yettaw, who swam to her house on May 3 and stayed there for two nights.

The Burmese regime charged Aung San Suu Kyi for violating the terms of detention and accepting Yettaw and providing him food. If she is convicted, she is likely to face up to five years in prison.

Last week, the EU and its foreign minister strongly urged the junta to release Aung San Suu Kyi and engage in an inclusive process of national reconciliation.

Besides, in a bid to make its restriction on Burma effective, the EU foreign ministers and officials said they are looking forward to Burma's giant neighbours, China and India to increase pressure on the regime.

"I don't think additional sanctions will help because you have seen they have not helped," reports quoted the EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner as saying.

“We have to reinforce dialogue with Burma's neighbours ... I think that is the way forward it should always be a subject of discussion with China, India and others,” Waldner said.

However, China, which is a major trading partner and close ally of Burma, holds the view that Burma’s problem should be best addressed internally.

In a press briefing, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ma Zhaoxu said, "I'd like to point out that the affairs of Myanmar [Burma] should be decided by the people of Myanmar [Burma].”

“As a neighbour of Myanmar [Burma], we hope that the relevant sides in Myanmar[Burma] will use dialogue to achieve reconciliation, stability and development," Ma added.

International reaction

Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial has also triggered criticism of the junta by the international community, including United Nations, United States and ASEAN leaders.

On Tuesday, the Israeli government also joined the call for her release and expressed hope for the restoration of democracy and national reconciliation in Burma.

On May 18, Japan’s foreign minister Hirofumi Nakasone make a personal telephone call and had a conversation with Burmese foreign minister Nyan Win on the matter related to the charges against Aung San Suu Kyi.

Nakasone conveyed Japan’s deep anxiety over the charges brought against Aung San Suu Kyi and warned that the charges would have a great impact on the junta’s ensuing election in 2010.

Similarly, Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State on Wednesday told the Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on State and Foreign Affairs that Burma’s 2010 election will be illegitimate if the junta kept treading the same path.

She also said the charge against Aung San Suu Kyi was “baseless.”

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