Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Myanmar agrees to accept ASEAN-led cyclone relief efforts

Myanmar's Foreign Minister Nyan Win (C) arrives for a special Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers meeting on Myanmar at a hotel in Singapore May 19, 2008. Hopes of a deal to speed up aid to millions of Myanmar cyclone victims rose on Monday as the U.N. said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would visit this week and Southeast Asia kicked off its own disaster-response meeting.


Myanmar's Foreign Minister Nyan Win (L) speaks with his Singaporean counterpart George Yeo before the special Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers meeting on Myanmar in Singapore May 19, 2008. ASEAN foreign ministers met in Singapore on Monday to discuss ways to help cyclone-stricken Myanmar.
Myanmar agreed at a special meeting here Monday to let the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) coordinate foreign assistance for Cyclone Nargis victims, Singapore's Foreign Minister George Yeo announced.

"The foreign ministers have agreed to establish an ASEAN-led coordinating mechanism" to facilitate the distribution and utilization of assistance from the international community, Yeo told reporters after conclusion of the special meeting attended by foreign ministers from 10 ASEAN member countries, including Myanmar's U Nyan Win.
Yeo added that Myanmar also agreed to accept medical teams and relief workers from all ASEAN countries.

The Myanmar government has accepted relief goods from foreign countries but refused to allow foreign relief workers to distribute them after the deadly tropical cyclone Nargis hit five divisions and states of Myanmar early this month and left more than 77,000 dead, 55,000 still missing and 19,000 injured.

"International assistance to Myanmar, given through ASEAN, should not be politicized. On that basis, Myanmar will accept international assistance," Yeo said.

A Task Force, to be headed by chief of the regional bloc Surin Pitsuwan, will be established to work with the United Nations while a central coordinating body will also be set up by Myanmar.

The Singapore foreign minister said that the meeting agreed that "this ASEAN-led approach was the best way forward."

ASEAN will work with the UN to hold an ASEAN-UN International Pledging Conference in Myanmar's Yangon city on May 25, Yeo said. Myanmar's Foreign Minister Nyan Win gestures to his staff before a special Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers meeting on Myanmar in Singapore May 19, 2008. Hopes of a deal to speed up aid to millions of Myanmar cyclone victims rose on Monday as the U.N. said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would visit this week and Southeast Asia kicked off its own disaster-response meeting.

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