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‘Premature’ for any ASEAN talks with Myanmar, says Singapore Foreign Minister

AFP – Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said on Friday that conditions were not yet right for ASEAN to open high-level talks with Myanmar on the country’s political situation.

“We believe it would be premature to reengage with the junta at a summit level or even at a foreign minister level,” Balakrishnan said when asked about a news report that Thailand’s military-controlled caretaker government had proposed talks.

Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrive for a joint news conference at the US Department of State in Washington, DC. PHOTO: AFP

Speaking in a joint press conference in Washington with United States (US) Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Balakrishnan said the leaders of ASEAN member states had recently reaffirmed their stance.

“We condemned the coup, and the ongoing violence against civilians, the instability in the country, the setback to national reconciliation, and the enormous impact on the economy,” he said of the 2021 military takeover in Myanmar.

“Unfortunately, it’s now more than two years. We haven’t seen any signs of improvement,” Balakrishnan said.

The Irrawaddy, a Myanmar-focussed news website operated in Thailand, said that Thailand’s Foreign Ministry proposed in a recent letter to host an informal ministerial meeting of some ASEAN members with Myanmar tomorrow to relaunch engagement.

Balakrishnan did not reject all engagement with the Myanmar junta.

“The key point is this. You do need everyone ultimately to sit down and negotiate,” the Singapore diplomat said. “I don’t know how long it will take. The last time it took 25 years for some form of democratic transition to occur in Myanmar. I hope it won’t take that long,” he said.

Blinken said the United States backs ASEAN efforts to resolve the violence that has seen 6,000 civilians killed since the February 2021, according to the Peace Research Institute of Oslo. “It’s very important that we continue, all of us, to sustain the appropriate pressure on the junta and look for ways of course to engage the opposition” in Myanmar, Blinken said.

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