ASEAN and EU release joint declaration

Nov 23, 2007 (DVB), Leaders of ASEAN and European countries have issued a joint declaration calling for the Burmese regime to continue its engagement with the international community and domestic opposition.

The declaration, which also covered other issues of mutual concern, was issued yesterday at the ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit in Singapore.

A European delegation led by Portuguese prime minister and current European Union president Jose Socrates attended the summit, which was intended to focus on international trade, climate change and human rights, particularly in relation to Burma.

The joint declaration expressed support for the work of the United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and special adviser Ibrahim Gambari in enabling national reconciliation and encouraging democratic transition in Burma.

The declaration called for the release of political prisoners and for restrictions on political parties to be lifted, and also noted the importance of including all parties in dialogue.

"[ASEAN and the EU] welcome the decision of the Government of Myanmar to step up its engagement with the UN and to enter into a dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, recalling that such a dialogue should be conducted with all concerned parties and ethnic groups," it said.

"[We] reaffirm the willingness of ASEAN and the EU to help address the humanitarian needs of the people of Myanmar and to respond constructively to political transformation and reform, including Myanmar's long-term development needs," the declaration added.

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, who is also part of the European delegation in Singapore, congratulated ASEAN in a press conference yesterday on its creation of a human rights body under the new ASEAN charter and welcomed its efforts on Burma.

"We welcome the efforts by ASEAN and the neighbours of Burma/Myanmar to influence the Burmese authorities, and encourage its partners in ASEAN and the region to use every opportunity to maintain the pressure for a credible and inclusive process of national reconciliation," he said.

ASEAN and the EU have differed in their approach to Burma, with the EU imposing sanctions against the regime while ASEAN continues to rule them out, advocating instead a policy of constructive engagement with the regime.

The European Council recently adopted tougher sanctions against the Burmese regime, including freezing assets, extending the ban on investments in state-owned companies and increasing the number of people covered by an entry ban.

Reporting by DVB

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