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Southeast Asian nations urge halt to violence in Myanmar

   March 2, 2021 9:41 PM
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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Southeast Asian foreign ministers urged a halt to violence and the start of talks on a peaceful solution in Myanmar, where the military seized power from an elected government and is escalating its use of mass arrests and deadly force against peaceful protesters.

Myanmar's top diplomat briefed other foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations during a video conference Tuesday, according to the meeting's agenda.

It was the first meeting of foreign ministers of the 10-member ASEAN since the Feb. 1 coup, when Myanmar's military detained Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders. Brunei, which heads ASEAN this year, had proposed that a joint statement be issued after the meeting. But the ministers apparently failed to agree on a declaration, and Brunei issued its own chairman's statement.

"We expressed our concern on the situation in Myanmar and called on all parties to refrain from instigating further violence, and for all sides to exercise utmost restraint as well as flexibility. We also called on all parties concerned to seek a peaceful solution, through constructive dialogue," the statement said.

It also said the ministers "heard calls" for the release of political prisoners and for the U.N. special envoy on Myanmar to play a mediating role, without identifying who made those proposals.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi led efforts to lobby for the ASEAN meeting. She has visited other member countries in recent weeks, including Thailand, where she held three-way talks with Thai counterpart Don Pramudwinai and Myanmar's new foreign minister, retired army colonel Wunna Maung Lwin, who also traveled to Thailand.

"This situation is worrisome," Marsudi said after Tuesday's meeting, "It is worrisome because an increasing number of civilians have lost their lives and are injured, it's worrisome because there are still arrests of civilians, it's worrisome because this situation could threaten the transition of the democratic process."

She called for a restoration of democracy and a return to normalcy. "This ASEAN meeting was to discuss and find a solution. However, it takes two to tango. The will and goodwill of ASEAN to help will not be implemented if Myanmar does not open its doors to ASEAN," she said.

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