(Mizzima) – The foreign minister of Norway said on Wednesday his country will lift sanctions on Burma because what the country needs now “is contact with the outside world, economic development and international aid.”
Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said, “At the same time it is a message to those opposing the reforms that the sanctions can be reintroduced, although in reality we are now suspending them.”
Støre said he spoke with Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, and, “She agrees that lifting the sanctions will strengthen the position of the reform forces in the country, but urges the international community to follow the situation closely, and we intend to do so.”
The Norwegian sanctions will continue to ban arms exports, he said.
Suu Kyi announced on Wednesday that she would travel to Oslo, Norway, in June, her first trip outside of Burma since she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, when she was under house arrest.
Minister of International Development Heikki Holmås, said, “Norway has been engaged in humanitarian activities in Myanmar for many years, for example through Norwegian aid agencies. We will continue to build on these contacts and make use of the confidence and experience we have gained.”
Burma has taken a number of important steps towards reform and democratization in the past year and a half. Suu Kyi won a seat in the Lower House of Parliament in the by-elections on April 1, and her party won 95 per cent of the seats that were up for election.
Many political prisoners have been released, laws promoting human rights situation are being amended, cease-fire agreements have been concluded with 12 of the country’s ethnic minority groups, and there is greater freedom of expressions and freedom of the press.
Store said: “However, there is still a lot to be done, and we will continue to call on the authorities to do more, particularly in the human rights field. But we are ready to assist, not least by supporting the cease-fire agreements, economic planning and capacity building.
“It is important that the international community also supports the progress that is being made.”
Holmas urged the U.N., the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to intensify cooperation with Burma. “I am pleased that the U.S. now seems to be more in agreement with us on this point. People must have faith that their lives will improve,” he said.