Yangon – The European Union has called for full humanitarian access to and an end to the violence in Myanmar’s restive Rakhine state from where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters on the sidelines of the 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) foreign ministers’ meeting in Myanmar’s capital Nayidaw on Monday that Europe urged “stopping the violence, the flow of refugees and guaranteeing full humanitarian access to Rakhine state.”
The two-day meeting comes as Myanmar faces increasing international pressure over military operations — launched in the wake of Rohingya militant attacks in August — dogged by accusations of rape, killings, arson, and torture by security forces and labelled “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” by the United Nations.
Foreign ministers representing ASEM’s 53 members were invited to attend the summit.
Myanmar and Bangladesh this week are likely to discuss repatriating more than 600,000 minority Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled to Bangladesh.
Mogherini, who visited Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh at the weekend, said the safe and sustainable repatriation of refugees could be achieved through a Myanmar-Bangladesh agreement.
After a meeting with Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel expressed his confidence that a repatriation agreement would be reached between the two neighbouring countries.
“They want to do everything so that refugees can return,” said Gabriel. “Of course, it’s a question of how secure the region is then and what life prospects can be opened there.”
Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay told dpa on Saturday that Myanmar had invited Bangladesh to discuss repatriations, though he declined to elaborate.
China proposed a three-phase solution to the Rohingya crisis starting with a ceasefire in Rakhine state, the country’s Foreign Ministry said Monday.
Speaking ahead of the ASEM meeting, China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, said: “The first phase is to achieve a ceasefire on the ground and restore stability and order so the people can enjoy peace and stop fleeing.”
In the second phase, Myanmar and Bangladesh should negotiate a repatriation agreement.
Root of the conflict is poverty
“The third stage is to face the root of the problem and explore ways to solve it,” Wang said, adding that China believes the root of the conflict is poverty.
This year’s ASEM meet will focus on weapons of mass destruction and non-proliferation, countering terrorism and violent extremism, and strengthening cyber security.
Ministers will also look to reinforce partnerships in areas such as sustainable development and climate change, as well as how to improve connectivity between Europe and Asia.