Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Cameron invites Suu Kyi to Britain

David Cameron meets pro democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi at her Lakeside Villa in Rangoon, Burma
David Cameron meets pro democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi at her Lakeside Villa in Rangoon, Burma
David Cameron walked through pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's garden in Rangoon, Burma
David Cameron meets Burmese President Thein Sein in the capital Naypyidaw

David Cameron has paved the way for Aung San Suu Kyi to make a hugely symbolic visit to Britain as he backed easing sanctions against Burma.

Standing alongside the opposition leader in the garden of the lakeside villa where she spent 15 years under house arrest, the Prime Minister invited her to come to London in June.

It would be the first time in more than two decades that Ms Suu Kyi has left Burma and would present a major test of the government's commitment to reform.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner has previously refused to leave the country for fear she would not be allowed back in. However, she indicated a growing confidence in the good faith of President Thein Sein by saying she was considering accepting the offer.

"Two years ago, I would have said thank you for the invitation but sorry," Ms Suu Kyi said. "Now I am able to say perhaps. That is great progress."

Mr Cameron is the first serving prime minister to visit Burma, which became independent from Britain in 1948. His first engagement on Friday morning was talks with Mr Sein at the presidential palace in the purpose-built capital Naypidaw.

The Prime Minister congratulated the government for pushing through reforms, including releasing political prisoners and holding parliamentary by-elections this month that saw Ms Suu Kyi's party win 43 seats. He then headed to Rangoon, where he met Ms Suu Kyi and sought her opinion on how best to encourage further change.

Speaking at a joint press conference afterwards, Mr Cameron announced his support for suspending tough sanctions imposed by the EU - opening the door for development aid. A decision is due to be taken at a meeting of European ministers on April 23.

"Of course we must respond with care, we must always be sceptical and questioning because we want to know those changes are irreversible," he said. "But as we have discussed, I think it is right to suspend the sanctions that there are against Burma - to suspend them, not to lift them - and obviously not to include the arms embargo.

"I do think it is important to send a signal that we want to help see the changes that can bring the growth of freedom of human rights and democracy in your country."

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