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EU Rejects Myanmar’s Diplomatic Role and Says It Still Doesn’t Recognize Generals

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — The European Union’s top diplomat on Thursday expressed opposition to Myanmar’s upcoming role as the overseer of relations between the 27-nation bloc and Southeast Asian nations and reasserted its non-recognition of the strife-torn country’s military government.

The comments marked the latest diplomatic fallout from the Myanmar army’s forcible seizure of power from Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government on 1 February 2021, which plunged the country into deadly chaos.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, raised the concern in a meeting with foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. The 10-nation ASEAN includes Myanmar and Indonesia, which leads the regional group this year.

“We face a challenge related to the potential of Myanmar assuming the role of ASEAN coordinator for relations with the European Union,” Borrell told his ASEAN counterparts at the start of their meeting.

”We don’t recognize the military junta and perhaps you will find a solution to overcome this issue,” he said.

There was no immediate reaction from the foreign ministers but a Southeast Asian diplomat attending the meetings told The Associated Press that the concern raised by the EU was being discussed within ASEAN to prevent any disruptions in the robust trade and geopolitical relations between the two regional blocs.

The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to discuss the issue publicly.

The EU, the United States, and other Western governments have imposed sanctions on Myanmar’s military government and demanded an immediate end to violence and the release of Suu Kyi and other political detainees.

ASEAN assigns a member state to oversee trade, political and security relations with each world power it has ties with, including the EU, for three years. The Philippines currently coordinates ASEAN-EU relations and is scheduled to be succeeded by Myanmar next year.

Among the options being considered by the ASEAN ministers was to assign Laos, which will hold the regional group’s rotational chairmanship next year, to coordinate ties with the EU, the diplomat said.

ASEAN also does not recognize Myanmar’s military government and has barred military-appointed representatives from attending the group’s top-level meetings, including those being hosted this week by Indonesia.

More than 3,750 civilians, including pro-democracy activists, have been killed by security forces and nearly 24,000 arrested since the military takeover, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a rights group that keeps tallies of arrests and casualties.

ASEAN officials barred the military government from attending its ministerial meetings and summits of heads of state after Myanmar’s generals refused to meaningfully comply with a five-point emergency plan that called for an immediate end to the violence and the start of talks among contending parties that could be brokered by the group’s special envoy.

Myanmar’s leaders have not given ASEAN’s special envoy access to Suu Kyi but Thailand’s foreign minister, Don Pramudwinai, told his counterparts in the bloc and the media that he met with Suu Kyi on Sunday that she conveyed her openness to engage in talks to resolve the crisis gripping her nation.

The Thai minister is the only government official outside of Myanmar known to have met Myanmar’s democracy icon since she was detained with other officials after the army forcibly took power in 2021. He told his ASEAN counterparts Wednesday that Suu Kyi was in good health when he met with her for more than an hour.

“She encourages dialogue,” he told reporters in Jakarta when asked what message Suu Kyi conveyed to him. “Obviously we’re trying to find a way to settle with Myanmar.”

It’s too early to tell if the access to Suu Kyi granted by Myanmar’s military government would lead to further talks between her camp and the ruling generals.

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BY EDNA TARIGAN AND JIM GOMEZ Associated Press

Associated Press journalist Niniek Karmini contributed to this report.

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