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The EU’s top aid official wound up a visit to Burma Saturday, including the first talks between an EU commissioner and peace icon Aung San Suu Kyi, “encouraged” by official pledges of greater access to troubled areas.
“I was encouraged that the authorities are willing to expand humanitarian access to more areas of Burma/Burma,” Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva said in a statement released in Brussels.
“I hope to see a tangible sign of this commitment soon, in the form of permissions for humanitarian experts to visit and work in areas of substantial need,” she added.
During the two-day visit, aimed at discussing ways to step up support for the country’s most vulnerable people, Georgieva held talks in the capital Naypyidaw and Rangoon with government representatives and humanitarian groups.
The EU’s executive arm, this year donating over 22 million euros of humanitarian and disaster relief, as well as aid to refugees in Thailand, needs “assurances that humanitarian agencies have full access to those who need relief”, she said
Her talks with ministers as well as with democracy icon Suu Kui, she added, “give me hope that we will be able to do more to tackle these challenges”.
The Nobel peace laureate “is the face and the voice of the most vulnerable people in Burma”, Georgieva said.
“This is why, as the EU humanitarian commissioner, I was glad to have the opportunity to present to her our response to humanitarian challenges and disasters and to discuss how Europe can help the most needy people in the country in their quest for survival and development.”
The isolated nation’s nominally civilian government has recently appeared to be seeking to improve its image by reaching out to critics such as Suu Kyi, who last month met President Thein Sein, a former general, for the first time.
The Nobel peace prize winner was released from seven straight years of house arrest by the junta days after controversial November elections.
The regime has also called for peace in minority areas, but its overtures have so far been met with distrust by rebel groups.
Over a million people benefit from assistance provided by the Commission, which supports basic health services, water and sanitation projects, food and nutrition assistance and relief to cyclone and earthquake survivors.
The primary focus of Commission assistance is to the civilian victims of the protracted conflict between the army and rebellious ethnic minority groups in border areas.