Press conference given by Alain Juppé, Ministre d’Etat, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs

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Naypyidaw, January 16, 2012

Ladies and gentlemen,

Following these 48 hours spent in Burma, in Myanmar, I’ve been able to get a clearer picture of the very profound change currently under way in this country. The meetings I’ve had throughout the day with the government authorities – the President, the Speaker of the Upper house, the Speaker of the Lower House and the Foreign Minister – have convinced me there’s total agreement between the different authorities to move forward along the path of the regime’s democratization and liberalization.

Likewise, meeting Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon yesterday I understood that she’s been engaged in a process of dialogue since her party was legalized, that she’ll be able to stand in the forthcoming by-elections on 1 April and that she has a constructive relationship with President Thein Sein. The other opposition leaders or just released leaders or prisoners whom I also met in Rangoon yesterday expressed to me their wish to avoid any confrontation with the regime and to work in a spirit of constructive dialogue too. So these are positive signs.

I think now that France, first of all, but also the European Union must act accordingly and send signals of encouragement to all that country’s leaders to support them in the process they’ve embarked on. What can these signals be? First of all, being very clear about what we expect: namely, progress on three more points.

First point: the full release of political prisoners. The latest decision by President Thein Sein went a long way; we have yet to confirm – and I think it’s the role of the different political players to do so here – that there are no longer any political prisoners. I also asked the International Committee of the Red Cross to be allowed to return to the prisons to check the other prisoners’ conditions of detention. The second important point is to be sure that the elections of 1 April – which will concern a number of seats: 40 in the Lower House, four in the Upper House and two in the provincial governments: 48 in all – go ahead under transparent and free conditions.

And finally – and this is very probably the hardest challenge to take up – national reconciliation with the ethnic nationalities. Ceasefire agreements have already been reached. According to what President Thein Sein told me, there are good reasons for thinking a ceasefire agreement with the Kachin can also be reached in the coming weeks.

In addition to these ceasefire agreements, more inclusive political dialogue must be initiated to see how to guarantee these different ethnic minorities equal rights and conditions of economic development that are also as egalitarian as possible.

Under these circumstances, what can we do to support this process, which is well under way?

First of all, encourage the country’s reintegration into the international community. It continues to have close relations with the United Nations. We’ll take steps to persuade our partners to allow President Thein Sein to take part in the next ASEM [Asia-Europe Meeting], due to be held in November.

Secondly, work with our EU partners and also our American friends towards a stage-by-stage lifting of sanctions. We can very probably begin by eliminating visa bans. We’ll have to look at what can be done in terms of unfreezing certain assets – selectively of course. Granting generalized preferential tariffs doesn’t seem to pose a problem. So we’re going to work towards a review of the common position of the 27 on all these issues at the end of April, in order to move forward.

And finally, the third thing we can do is develop our bilateral cooperation. I’ve announced that France will triple her aid, focusing on humanitarian aid, support for non-governmental organizations, support for civil society and the development of cultural relations.

I’m also going to examine, with my government colleagues and the Prime Minister, the possibility of the French Development Agency being able to operate on Myanmar territory in priority sectors like education, health and agriculture, which are a very major challenge here.

So that’s the raft of initiatives we’re going to take following this visit. (…)./.