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Myanmar: EU suspends sanctions for one year

Meeting in Luxembourg, the EU foreign ministers have decided to suspend the sanctions against Burma/Myanmar for one year, with the sole exception of the weapons embargo. On a visit to Southeast Asia (leaving tomorrow for Myanmar), Terzi asserted that the suspension of sanctions should serve to accelerate the reform process.

The European sanctions, which expire at the end of the month, include a block on visas and goods for 491 persons associated with the former military junta, and against 59 firms and organisations. Trade restrictions were also imposed on at least 800 firms active mainly in the sectors of wood, precious stones and mining. All these measures are to be suspended for a period of one year. According to the decision taken today, the ministers are to review the provisions in six months’ time.

The EU now awaits Burma/Myanmar’s “unconditional release of the remaining political prisoners and the lifting of all restrictions imposed on those already freed”. The suspension of the sanctions (with the sole exception of the weapons embargo) is a sign of “encouragement for the reform process already under way” in Burma/Myanmar, the ministers stated (Under-Secretary Dassù representing Italy), praising the new path undertaken byBurma/Myanmar’s, which makes way for relations with the EU. “The EU wants to set up collaborative initiatives with Burma/Myanmar aimed at facilitating the reform process and contributing to economic, political and social development”, the conclusions read.

Minister Terzi, who will be in Burma/Myanmar Tomorrow, underscored that the suspension of the EU sanctions “was not irreversible, rather the reform process must be irreversible”. The message was one of “confident openness” Terzi added, explaining this as “encouragement from the international community for more dialogue with Burma/Myanmar and more solid relations, so as to ensure that this democracy will not be a fragile one”.

Accompanied by former Italian special envoy for Burma/Myanmar Piero Fassino, Terzi will be in Naypyidaw tomorrow evening, where he is to meet on Wednesday with President Thein Sein, and in Rangoon on Thursday to meet with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who walked out of the first meeting of the new parliament today after refusing to swear to defend the Constitution approved in 2008 by the military junta. On this point Terzi asserted: “Negotiations are under way and I am confident that a formula will be found to respond to their needs”.

Sanctions were also drawn up in Luxembourg against the Syrian regime. The new measures target luxury imports that can be used in the repression. This EU sanctions package is the 14th since the launch of the oil and weapons embargo and after targeting 126 persons and 41 firms, the central bank, precious metals exports and merchant flights.

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