No Removal of Sanctions, Only Suspension: US

By Lalit K Jha 27 June 2012

Asserting that its policy toward Burma is a “step-by-step” process, the US on Tuesday ruled out complete removal of economic sanctions against this Southeast Asian country, noting that based on the progress made by the new government, it finds it appropriate to only suspend these sanctions.

“This is a step-by-step process, and there’s quite a road to go, as I think our Burmese guests would agree with,” the State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, told reporters at her daily news conference where in the audience were some invited guests—a delegation of advisors from the Office of the Presidency in Burma. The delegation is currently visiting the United States at the invitation of the Asia Society and the US Institute of Peace.

“I think, as our Burmese visitors know better than anyone, we have been encouraging the kind of opening and reform that we are now seeing in Burma for many months,” she said.

Referring to a question regarding US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is the first US foreign minister to visit Burma since the 1950s, Nuland responded: “She said then that we would match action with action.

“So as Burma has gone forward with free, fair, parliamentary elections, has taken steps on the border, has begun to talk about opening its economy, we’ve tried to match those steps. We’ve had the naming of an ambassador,” she said.

“We’ve had the beginning of suspension of sanctions. We’re working now on being able to license our companies for investment, for trade, etcetera. But as we’ve said, these are suspensions,” she noted.

“These are not erasing of sanctions because our continued progress is contingent on Burma’s own continued progress in terms of democratic reform, economic opening, peace and security, national reconciliation, and good human rights standards throughout the country,” Nuland said.

Responding to a question on the Rohingya crisis in Burma, the spokesperson said the US has been urging Bangladesh to assume its international responsibilities.

“We have had contacts with both governments. As you know, we have been urging Bangladesh to open its border to treat refugees properly. We’ve been supportive and encouraging of the UN’s Special Envoy, who, I understand, is now … working with the Burmese government, working with the Rohingya to try to have a dialogue about grievances, to try to settle issues peacefully. And also, as I understand it, the UN’s envoy will be traveling to Bangladesh,” she said.

“I think the fact that they [Bangladesh and Burma] are in dialogue with the Burmese is a good thing. But again, we’d like to see that border open,” she said.

Meanwhile the United Nations announced that the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, will witness the signing of an agreement on Thursday in Burma to release children from the country’s armed forces.

The new action plan sets out concrete and time-bound activities to ensure the separation of underage recruits from the army children and to prevent further recruitment. While in Burma, Coomaraswamy will meet with Burmese President Thein Sein, government ministers, UN agencies, civil society and the diplomatic community, a UN spokesman said.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday will hold a full committee confirmation hearing on the nomination of Derek Mitchell as US ambassador to Burma.