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EU shelves Myanmar sanctions for a year
Publication Date : 24-04-2012
But arms ban stays
The European Union has suspended its sanctions against Myanmar for a year but embargo on arms sales will remain, reports quoting officials say,
The lifting of sanctions follow April 1's by-elections wherein the opposition National League for Democracy won majority of the seats.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the EU wants to support the progress made in the Southeast Asian nation "so that it becomes irreversible".
Ashton will travel to Myanmar this week.
The decision, adopted by EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg yesterday, rewards a shift in Myanmar's political environment that has seen opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi elected to parliament and a range of repressive measures lifted.
The suspension is expected to go into effect later this week. It will allow European companies to invest in Myanmar, which has significant natural resources.
But the decision to suspend sanctions instead of lifting them altogether shows that EU governments are moving cautiously in order to pressure the Myanmar government to keep up the pace of change.
"President Thein Sein has taken important steps towards reform in Burma (Myanmar), and it is right for the world to respond to them," British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement after the decision by the 27-member bloc.
"But those changes are not yet irreversible, which is why it is right to suspend rather than lift sanctions for good."
Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi also welcomed the EU move, saying the bloc expected reforms in Myanmar to be more advanced in a year's time, when the suspended sanctions are reassessed.