The easy bits first

AKM Moinuddin from Nay Pyi Taw (Myanmar)
Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

ASEM Foreign Ministers poses at Myanmar International Convention Centre before its 13th Meeting


Foreign Ministers of Asian and European countries have agreed on the broad points of the Rohingya issue, and asked for the immediate cessation of hostilities, halting the outflow of Rohingya from Rakhine State, and early return of the displaced population from Bangladesh.


They also asked for implementation of recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission for a durable solution to the crisis.


On Monday morning, the Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali attended the informal briefing on the state of Rakhine issue and discussed the issue.


Foreign Ministers of Myanmar, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Estonia, Germany, Malta, Russia, Luxemburg, France, Thailand, Hungary, Finland, Sweden and the High Representative of the EU attended it.


European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini, after the meeting, expressed her hope that Bangladesh and Myanmar would reach a decision to sign MoU and agreement on safe repatriation of Rohingyas from Bangladesh to their homeland Myanmar.


“There is a real possibility Myanmar and Bangladesh reaching a MoU and an agreement for the safe repatriation of refugees (Rohingyas),” she told a small group of reporters including Dhaka Courier correspondent after photo session with ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) Foreign Ministers.


She said the EU is supporting this process and will stand ready to accompany this process in the coming week.


In the morning the EU top diplomat had informal meetings with some ministers on the situation in Rakhine State.


“That was extremely encouraging. We discussed the need to start implementing the Annan Commission Report,” she said adding that she is very encouraged by “willingness and readiness” of the Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi going that direction.


The European Union and its Member States are delivering more than half of the total financial support to the Rohingyas, and they said they will continue to support them, as well as the government of Bangladesh and the people of Bangladesh.


“It is, I think, a responsibility of the authorities to find solutions. Again, the international community has indicated some of the solutions, especially the Kofi Annan plan that Aung San Suu Kyi has committed to implement, and we are there to support her in doing this,” said the EU top diplomat during her Bangladesh visit prior coming to Myanmar.


The Bangladesh government is now negotiating with the Myanmar government on repatriation issue.


The EU is trying to help the two countries to find a sustainable solution.


Minutes before opening session of the ASEM Foreign Ministers Meeting, the EU diplomat said they are here to discuss economic cooperation, climate change, peace and security issues in the ASEM Foreign Ministers Meeting.


“We are partners. I believe these two days will represent strengthening our partnership between Europe and Asia,” she said.


The EU High Representative said they will also discuss some of the current priorities in terms of security, DPRK situation and Rohingya issues.


In the opening session, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi said the world is facing instability and conflict in part because illegal immigration spreads terrorism that comes as her country is accused of violently pushing out hundreds of thousands of unwanted Rohingya Muslims.


Suu Kyi did not directly mention the Rohingya exodus in her speech to welcome European and Asian foreign ministers in Naypyitaw, the capital of Myanmar.


But her speech highlighted the views of many in Myanmar who see the Rohingya as illegal immigrants and blame the population for terrorist acts.


Suu Kyi said conflicts around the world gave rise to new threats and emergencies, citing how illegal immigration spread “terrorism and violent extremism, social disharmony and even the threat of nuclear war.”


Though silent about the protracted Rohingya crisis, State Counsellor and Union Minister of Foreign Affairs Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday called for a new and stronger partnership among countries in Asia and Europe for the maintenance and promotion of peace and sustainable development through collective efforts.


“We must continue to nurture partnership to create new connections — not just between governments but also across the private sectors and civil societies and of course people to people,” said Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, widely criticised over Rohingya issue.


Earlier on Sunday, Suu Kyi held a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.


Suu Kyi, during the meeting, said Myanmar values China’s understanding of the Rakhine issue which is much complicated and delicate.


The three sectors or points proposed by the Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister go in line with the view of Myanmar, she said.


“Myanmar’s insistence on the rule of law is for stability and ceasing conflicts. Myanmar is desirous of solving the issue through bilateral talks with Bangladesh,” she was quoted as saying in a statement issued by Myanmar State Counsellor Office.


Suu Kyi said development and poverty alleviation is the hope and goal of the government not only for Rakhine State but also for the entire country.


“China’s assistance as a friend in need amidst the many problems is so much encouraging for Myanmar. May there be eternal friendship between the eternal neighbors China and Myanmar,” she said.


Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi said China’s hope for Myanmar is its peace and stability which is divided into three sectors.


“China has listened to the voices of Myanmar and Bangladesh. China hopes further talks between the two countries,” he said.


MoU with BD to start Rohingya repatriation:


Amid mounting international pressure, Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday said the planned MoU with Bangladesh this week will enable them to start repatriation process of all Rohingyas from Bangladesh to their homeland Myanmar.


“What we’re trying to do is to sign an MoU that will enable us to start the repatriation of all those refugees who have gone over the border,” she told a crowded press conference at Myanmar International Convention Centre.


Suu Kyi, however, said restoring peace and stability in the troubled Rakhine State will not be possible overnight.


“Nothing can be done overnight. But we believe we’ll be able to make a steady progress,” said the Myanmar’s de facto leader.


She said the Asian and European countries are keen to help Myanmar in its efforts to bring about peace and stability in Rakhine as quickly as possible.


Bangladesh is in talks with Myanmar bilaterally apart from international engagement on the safe and voluntary return of Rohingya Muslims who fled to Bangladesh in the past months.


Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali who led the Bangladesh delegation in the ASEM Foreign Ministers’ meeting will overstay there to further discuss the repatriation process with Suu Kyi on Wednesday and Thursday.


Over 620,000 Rohingyas have crossed the border and taken shelter in Cox’s Bazar district since August 25.


The Myanmar Foreign Minister laid emphasis on maintaining peace and stability in the long run and making sure that conflict is not erupted again.


New, stronger partnership:


Though silent about the protracted Rohingya crisis, State Counsellor and Union Minister of Foreign Affairs Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday called for a new and stronger partnership among countries in Asia and Europe for the maintenance and promotion of peace and sustainable development through collective efforts.


“We must continue to nurture partnership to create new connections — not just between governments but also across the private sectors and civil societies and of course people to people,” she said.


Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader who is widely criticised over Rohingya issue, made the remark while delivering her speech at the inaugural session of the two-day 13th ASEM Foreign Ministers meeting at Myanmar International Convention Centre here without touching the Rohingya crisis.


Suu Kyi said there is a vital need for new and stronger partnership to address far-reaching challenges such as regional and international conflicts, on domestic security, and threat of terrorism and violent extremism in their various forms and manifestation.


She said the discussions during the two days will provide opportunities for all of them to reflect on progress made and explore future areas for the enhancement of political, economic, social, cultural in line with the three pillars of ASEM Cooperation.


The State Counsellor said the role of youths is essential to all areas of cooperation in the ASEM mechanism.


The EU High Representative reiterated their commitment to global peace and security and support for strengthening partnership between Asia and Europe.


The European Union’s top diplomat, earlier, said she is encouraging Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s willingness to implement the recommendations of an expert panel on ensuring stability in troubled Rakhine state.


Federica Mogherini said work still was needed on implementing the recommendations, reports AP.


The Rakhine Commission, established last year at Suu Kyi’s behest, issued its report the day before deadly insurgent attacks on multiple police posts in Rakhine state on Aug. 25. The subsequent military crackdown on Rohingya Muslims sparked a major refugee exodus and widespread condemnation.


Ahead of ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Myanmar, Bangladesh tried to make the best use of high-level visits from a number of countries, including China and Japan in the last two days — Saturday and Sunday — to mount pressure on Myanmar and expedite talks for sending Rohingyas back to their homeland.


Focus on connectivity:


Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali in the ASEM Meeting urged the Asian and European countries under ASEM to focus more on connectivity of ideas and cultures to be able to reduce tensions among countries and regions.


“We must priortise projects to form a better respect for each other’s civilisational past and socio-cultural norms and value-systems,” he said.


The Foreign Minister was addressing the plenary session-2 of 13th ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting titled ‘3rd Decade of ASEM: Making ASEM Partnership more Dynamic and Connected’.


Though he did not touch Rohingya issue, especifically at the plenary sessions, the Foreign Minister will discuss the issue broadly with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi after the ASEM meeting that ends on Tuesday.


The Foreign Minister said many countries are facing existential threats and being subject to unending adaptations at very high costs.


“As such, our two regions should also coordinate more and strongly articulate views on protecting our environment and the planet earth. We may consider simpler measures to facilitate transfer of new technologies to cut emission of harmful gases as we promote indigenous know-how and traditional knowledge to protect and preserve global common good,” he said.


With globalisation, Asia and Europe are experiencing high economic complementarily and need for connectivity, said the Foreign Ministry.  “In this era of digitisation and satellite–based communication, scope for stronger digital connectivity is very high. Higher levels of digital connectivity will naturally contribute to bringing our people closer to each other.”


He said it is no denying that Asia and Europe today enjoy much wider connectivity. “But, talks on tangible projects like infrastructure and economic interactions generate quick traction, and in the process also invite opposition.”


The Foreign Minister also spoke at the plenary session-1 of 13th ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on “Synergising Peace and Sustainable Development.”


He said continued peace and stability is an essential pre-requisite to ensuring sustainable development. “Sustainable development and sustaining peace are two sides of the same coin. Peace is an important element and tool of human security, which is an important dimension of development, too.”


Minister Ali said they need to counter common threats to peace and security like weapons of mass destruction, nuclear non-proliferation, terrorism and cyber security collectively.


“Any collaborative effort, initiative or undertaking to tackle terrorism and other global threats should be broad-based, participatory in nature. In some of these areas, ASEM may have focal points,” he said.


The Foreign Minister said lack of development can make people vulnerable and create insecurities. “Similarly, without peace investments in sustainable development can go waste. We must seek to break this negative nexus by promoting inclusive development, pluralism and respect for all communities. For this, we need equity and justice at the national, regional and global level.”


The minister said equally important are man-made disasters and humanitarian crises and things become further complicated when populations are deprived of their economic and social rights and denied their civil, political rights for whatever justifications.


“These create marginalisation, vulnerabilities, and ultimately feed insecurities. They often lead to forced displacement of people and can destabilize a region. We need collaborative actions to prevent such man-made crises,” he adde.

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