Posted September 13th, 2011 at 12:20 am (UTC-5)
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Officials from Europe and Southeast Asia are promising to work together more closely to prevent and respond to natural disasters.

Kristalina Georgieva, the European Union commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis response, announced the agreement Monday after talks with officials in Indonesia. ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan represented the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in the talks.

Georgieva noted that Southeast Asia is especially vulnerable to disasters because of its dense population and its location in an area prone to earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanos. She said the region has suffered 91 percent of the fatalities and 49 percent of the economic damage from disasters over the past 30 years.

Georgieva said the EU hopes to help Southeast Asia reduce its vulnerability to such losses in future disasters and to learn from its experience. She said the two regions will organize joint training exercises in civil protection.

The commissioner visited Jakarta after a trip to Burma in which she said the government there has promised to permit increased access for international humanitarian workers after natural disasters. She said the government also promised to pursue peaceful solutions to its decades-old conflicts with ethnic minority groups.