Wednesday, August 12, 2009

UNSC Meeting on Burma Remains Inconclusive

The Irrawaddy News

WASHINGTON— An emergency meeting of the powerful United Nations Security Council convened on Tuesday afternoon at the request of France to discuss the situation in Burma in the aftermath of the fresh sentence against pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

However, the meeting ended without conclusion because of sharp differences among its members.

Emerging from the closed-door meeting, the Security Council president for the month of August, Ambassador John Sawers from Britain, said the 15-member UN body would meet again on Wednesday.

A draft statement was circulated by the United States among the member countries, which, among other things, condemns the conviction of Aung San Suu Kyi and calls for her immediate release and ability to participate in the political process.

When asked about Russia and China, the two members that have asked for more time to consider the draft statement, Deputy French Ambassador to the UN Jean-Pierre Lacroix said “I mean, everybody pretty much knows the dynamic within the Council, but we are in the midst of a discussion now and, as I said, we will do our best to try and achieve the kind of outcome that we are looking for.

“The draft statement has been circulated by the US delegation. We support that initiative, we support that draft. Some members of the Council have asked for some time to communicate this draft to their capital, and we respect that. But it is our firm position that there has to be a speedy and firm reaction of the Security Council,” he said.

“It has been our longstanding position, but also one of the [UN] secretary-general, that if there is to be an inclusive and fair electoral process in Burma, it cannot be without the participation of all relevant political players, particularly Aung San Suu Kyi. That is why we think there has to be a reaction by the Security Council. The verdict is in clear violation and breach of the request made by the Security Council,” he added.

Talking to reporters, the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said: “We recognize that other members of the Council may take different views on this, and we think it is important nonetheless to have a discussion and a debate and to seek as a matter of principle and policy a statement by the Council in accord with the principles of the Charter and the principles of democracy and respect for human rights that we are committed to.”

Earlier in the day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his deep disappointment over the verdict and deplored the decision.

“The secretary-general urges the [Burmese] government to immediately and unconditionally release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and to engage with her without delay as an essential partner in the process of national dialogue and reconciliation,” said a statement issued by his spokesperson.

“Unless she and all other political prisoners in Myanmar [Burma] are released and allowed to participate in free and fair elections, the credibility of the political process will remain in doubt,” the statement said.

Ban also spoke to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown after Suu Kyi was sentenced to another 18 months of house arrest.

Meanwhile, however, China urged the international community to respect Burma's judicial sovereignty, reacting to the regime's decision to prolong the pro-democracy leader’s house arrest, according to Agence France-Presse news agency.

"The international community should fully respect Myanmar's judicial sovereignty," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.

Meanwhile Malaysia's foreign minister called for an "urgent meeting" of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) after the verdict was announced.

"I think there is a need for Asean foreign ministers to have an urgent meeting to discuss this issue, which is of grave concern," Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said.

"With this sentence there is no possibility for Aung San Suu Kyi to participate in the general election next year which should be free, fair and inclusive," he added.

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