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UN Role “Not Enough”: Ban

December 6, 2008

From The Irrawaddy

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday his direct involvement was “not enough” to resolve the current political stalemate in Burma and all its neighbors must play a more assertive role.

“My good offices should not be seen as an end in itself, or as a justification for inaction,” he told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York. “In order to be able to pursue this role in an effective manner, it is necessary for all concerned parties across the spectrum to step up efforts to help my good offices move forward.”

After attending a meeting of the Secretary General’s Group of Friends on Burma, Ban told reporters: “While I will continue my good offices role as mandated by the General Assembly, all the countries of the membership, particularly the Group of Friends countries, should use their influence, they should use whatever available leverage and tools to impress upon the Government of Myanmar [Burma] to implement their commitment.”

Ban created the Group of Friends on Burma last year to aid and advise him on the various issues related to Burma, in particular how to proceed on a path of democratization and national reconciliation.

Members are Australia, China, the European Union, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Norway, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Britain, the US and Vietnam.

The meeting was convened in the aftermath of a letter written to Ban by more than 100 former presidents and prime ministers urging him to work for the release of all political prisoners in Burma by the end of the year.

Ban said since the last meeting: “I sense not only a higher expectation but also a growing frustration that our efforts have yet to yield the results we all hope for. I share this sense of expectation and frustration.”

Referring to a statement from the Burmese government that cooperation with the UN is a cornerstone of their foreign policy, he said: “We welcome it, and we look forward to continue, and we expect a concrete action by them to implement their commitment.”

Giving a sense of the discussions during the meeting, Ban said: “I have taken note of the group’s concern that recent actions by the Government of Myanmar risk undermining the prospects of inclusive national reconciliation, democratic transition, and respect for human rights, and more generally at the lack of sufficient response to the concerns of the United Nations and the international community.”

The secretary-general urged the Burmese junta to “respond positively without further delay” to specific UN suggestions, as endorsed by the Group of Friends, in particular the release of all political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and the initiation of a genuine dialogue with the opposition.

Ban reiterated that he would visit Burma only if there is a real expectation of tangible progress.

“I am ready to visit Myanmar again, to continue our consultations on various issues—humanitarian issues, and also political issues,” he said. “At this time, I do not think that the atmosphere is ripe for me to undertake my own visit there.

“But I am committed, and I am ready to visit any time when I can have reasonable expectations my visit will be productive and meaningful,” he said.

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