[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

Reuters-EU diplomats see little hop

Subject: Reuters-EU diplomats see little hope for EU-ASEAN meeting

EU diplomats see little hope for EU-ASEAN meeting
10:45 a.m. Feb 19, 1999 Eastern
By Adrian Croft

BRUSSELS, Feb 19 (Reuters) - A meeting between the European Union and the
Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is in jeopardy because of a
row over whether Myanmar can attend in view of its human rights record, EU
sources said on Friday.

One EU diplomat said the March 30 Berlin meeting was likely to be cancelled
if ASEAN insisted that the foreign minister of Myanmar, formerly known as
Burma, be allowed to take part.

``The people who take Burma very seriously have managed to get a situation
whereby probably -- if it continues like this -- there will be no more
ministerial (meetings) with ASEAN,'' another EU diplomat said.

The row is expected to be discussed by EU foreign ministers meeting in
Luxembourg on Sunday and Monday. ``I don't see that there are very good
prospects there (for an agreement) at the last minute,'' the diplomat said.

ASEAN insists that Myanmar, which joined the association 18 months ago, be
allowed to go to the Berlin meeting. Indonesia warned on Thursday that ASEAN
would cancel the talks if the row over Myanmar were not resolved.

The dispute poses a dilemma for the EU, which does not want to harm its
relations with Asia.

The EU is split with EU president Germany wanting to hold the meeting but
countries such as Britain and the Netherlands taking a hard line against
Myanmar, one EU source said.

EU diplomats said that the March 29 Asia-Europe Meeting in Frankfurt --
involving foreign ministers from the EU and most ASEAN countries plus China
and Japan -- would probably still go ahead.

Just four months ago, the 15-nation EU tightened sanctions on military-ruled
Myanmar, voicing concern at its failure to promote democracy and human
rights. The sanctions include a ban on entry visas for the country's leaders
and the suspension of high-level government visits.

EU member states would have to give their unanimous support if the bloc were
to grant Myanmar's foreign minister a visa to attend the ASEAN-EU meeting.

One idea floated by the EU to break the deadlock was that a Myanmar
delegation be allowed to attend, but only as observers, the EU source said.

Myanmar Foreign Minister Win Aung said on Friday that the EU had reneged on
a deal that would allow Myanmar to attend.

He said he had agreed to an EU proposal to talk about human rights and other
thorny issues on the sidelines of the Berlin meeting in return for the
Europeans allowing his participation.

``But nearer the day we have found many, many conditions coming out of the
EU. First they said if you are willing to meet, there will not be a problem,
then they change their mind,'' Win Aung told Reuters in an interview.

The Myanmar issue has already led to the cancellation of a junior-level
EU-ASEAN meeting in Bangkok last month.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines,
Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.