Tuesday, 10 February 2004

Ceisteanna (148)

John Gormley

Ceist:

224 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he intends to meet representatives of Burma's SPDC during the Irish Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3678/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Foreign)

The Government stands ready to engage with the Burmese authorities if, in consultation with our EU partners, we consider that such contact will contribute to the restoration of democracy in that country. The EU Council of Ministers decided in April 2003 to make an exception to the ban on official visits to allow an EU troika at political level to travel to Burma to convey the EU's position to all interested players there. However, the events of May 2003, when Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters were attacked, and she was arrested, concerns about the level at which the troika would be received, and the effectiveness of such a mission at that time led EU partners to decide that it would not go ahead. The possibility of a troika mission at some time during Ireland's Presidency has not been ruled out. However, for such a mission to be fully effective, it would have to meet with senior members of the government, as well as Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy, other opposition leaders, and leaders of ethnic minority groups.

The EU Common Position on Burma, which provides for a visa ban on members of the regime, and a freeze on all their financial assets in the European Union, is due to expire on 29 April 2004. Ireland, together with our EU partners, will discuss in due course what revisions in the Common Position, if any, may be necessary in view of developments in Burma. To date, no evident progress has been made in Burma towards the restoration of democracy. The Government of Burma has indicated that it will convene a national convention some time this year, possibly May or June, which will be tasked with drafting a constitution. In August 2003, the Burmese government issued a road map on national reconciliation and the restoration of democracy. However, it lacks basic elements and benchmarks, such as the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, and a chronological framework for the restoration of democracy.

The Burmese authorities have continued to refuse to give a date for when the UN Secretary General's Special Representative, Mr Razali, might visit the country next. The government of Burma insists that Aung San Suu Kyi is no longer under security detention; she has refused to accept the removal of restrictions on her freedom until these are extended to her supporters arrested with her. During its Presidency of the EU, Ireland will continue to contribute to the ongoing efforts in the region, and to discussion at EU and other fora on possible action with respect to Burma. We are for instance urging Burma's neighbours in Asia to encourage the Burmese authorities to take the necessary steps to end their country's isolation from the wider international community. We will also continue to take every opportunity to register our serious concern at the situation in Burma and, along with our EU partners, to monitor closely events there.