New Zealand FM Urges Continued Reforms in Burma

Posted March 7th, 2012 at 6:45 am (UTC-5)
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New Zealand's foreign minister is urging Burma to continue making democratic reforms, as he finishes a two-day tour of the formerly reclusive southeast Asian nation.

Murray McCully, the latest foreign diplomat to make a landmark visit to Burma, said Wednesday that the country should continue seeking “practical gains from the transitions that are taking place.”

He met Wednesday with the country's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who thanked New Zealand for its support.

“We have many problems that we need to get over. And I'm sure that our friends in New Zealand will be most understanding in helping us proceed along the path to democratization.”

McCully met Tuesday with Burma's President Thein Sein in Naypitaw, where the two countries agreed to promote bilateral ties and cooperation. It is believed to be the first visit by a New Zealand foreign minister to Burma.

On Thursday, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird will become that country's first top diplomat to visit Burma. He will meet with the president and other senior officials.

Baird said before leaving Canada on Tuesday that his government has not decided whether to lift sanctions against Burma. But he said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the reforms undertaken by the country following decades of military rule.

Since taking power a year ago, Burma's military-dominated civilian government has taken steps to improve freedom of the press, engaged in dialogue with opposition groups, and reached cease-fire deals with several ethnic rebel groups.