On Myanmar, UN Visits As Possible Leverage, China
and India Want Ground Cover, Some Friends Say
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, September 12 -- How is Myanmar thought of, inside of the UN?
In a meeting
UN basement barely covered by the press, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Group
of Friends for Myanmar met for
two hours on Friday, to review Ban's envoy Ibrahim Gambari's recent
try to agree on steps to move forward. The
Group carries with it the same split as within the Security Council's
Five members -- the U.S., France and UK against China and these days
ever Russia -- and also has India, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore,
Norway, Japan, South Korea, and the European Union presidency,
Friday by EU envoy Piero Fassino.
has been described as the bridge, between
neighbors and Westerners who speak of freeing Burma. So after Friday's
Inner City Press asked Indonesia's Ambassador Marty Natalegawa what
any was reached.
Natalegawa said that some "are
always trying to oversimplify and caricature where we are, either
positive or extremely negative." The reality, he said, is somewhere in
between. Another ASEAN diplomat stopped and told Inner City Press that
count, the Government of Myanmar had responded positively to two of the
goals Gambari had been sent with, and had acknowledged but not given
three of them. "Four years ago, this visit would have been described as
successful," the ASEAN Ambassador said.
deeper background, out of the view of the
Ambassadors streaming out from the meeting room into the rainy streets,
diplomat who has spend "many years working on the Myanmar file" but
demanded anonymity said that Myanmar's government is reclusive and is
go it alone. He said the UN's leverage is to withhold the visits of
certainly Ban Ki-moon.
Amb. Natalegawa, at right, with UK Amb. Sawers,
all among Friends, ASSK not shown
they are prepared to go it alone, do
they care? The diplomat countered that China and India, which both do
in Myanmar, like to have Gambari visiting. It allows them to say that
a process, that things are on track. So to imply that Gambari won't
unless Myanmar gives Ban and the UN something of a victory -- for
"the freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi" -- just might work, the diplomat
this analysis, the criticism of
Gambari's trip as a failure helps the UN, which can say to Myanmar, we
under pressure, you have to give us something for us to keep visiting.
perhaps the stonewalling for 19 days after Gambari's visit, with Ban
having no comment at all, was planned. Perhaps. But following this
UN should make public some of its dissatisfaction and the threat of
Gambari. On September 11, however, Ban
Ki-moon said don't call the visit a
failure. Is this the right diplomatic move?
Footnote: the Group of Friends
meeting was slated to run from 3:30 to 4:30. But it continued on,
with two staffers coming out from time to time. At 5:10 UK Ambassador
John Sawers left; at 5:15 France's Jean-Maurice Ripert followed suit.
Only at 5:30 did Ban's flotilla, with Kim Won-soo and Vijay Nambiar,
come out without speaking. Might a visit be withheld? We'll see.
Watch this site, and this (UN) debate.
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