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AFP-ASEAN to push for Myanmar prese

Subject: AFP-ASEAN to push for Myanmar presence in future talks with EU

ASEAN to push for Myanmar presence in future talks with EU
SINGAPORE, July 22 (AFP) - ASEAN will press for the inclusion of Myanmar in
future ministerial dialogues with the European Union (EU) despite the EU's
boycott of Yangon over its human rights record, Thai Foreign Minister Surin
Pitsuwan said Thursday.
Surin, who will head ASEAN's Standing Committee, the group's policy-making
mechanism, said he was uncertain how soon the impasse on Myanmar's full
participation in ASEAN-EU dialogues could be resolved.

"We may not be able to reach it (a resolution) here but at least we will
begin to think about the dialogue (process)," he said. ASEAN foreign
ministers will meet leading EU officials here on Tuesday.

Surin was speaking at a gathering of foreign correspondents in Singapore.

"But I think through determined effort ... and honest and open and sincere
discussion we have been able to convince all sides that dialogue however
minimum, however little, however it (may) seem inconsequential, is better
than total isolation," he said.

The EU was strongly opposed to Myanmar joining the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations (ASEAN) in July 1997, citing gross human rights abuses and its
refusal to recognise the result of a 1990 election.

EU officials have refused to sit down on the same terms as Myanmar
officials, causing the cancellation of two planned Joint Cooperation
Committee meetings and a foreign ministers' meeting earlier this year in

Yangon officials face a visa ban in Europe under EU restrictions imposed to
punish alleged human rights violations in Myanmar.

The sanctions were first applied in 1996 and effectively block ASEAN from
attending talks in Europe, which has shown no inclination to soften its
stance against the junta in Myanmar.

In May Myanmar was allowed into a Joint Cooperation Committee meeting held
in Bangkok, but only in a "passive" role. EU officials have said such a role
would have to be reconsidered for any ministerial meetings as well as the
next meeting of the committee in Europe.

The Joint Cooperation Committee includes seven of the 10 members of ASEAN
and the European Union and discusses projects the two groups can work on in
areas ranging from forestry to narcotics.

Surin on Thursday voiced the hope that ASEAN, in its dialogue with the
European Union, could discuss the participation of the remaining three ASEAN
members -- Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar -- in the Joint Cooperation

Besides the three countries, ASEAN groups Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the
Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.