Gambari to test Burma’s political waters

Published: 31/01/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News
The United Nation’s special envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, arrives in Rangoon today on what may be his final effort to broker talks between the military government and detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. More important though, according to diplomats, Mr Gambari’s main task this time is to prepare the ground for a possible visit by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a few months’ time.
The other objective of his trip is to revive the UN’s process of mediation, through the offices of the secretary-general. Many diplomats saw Mr Gambari’s last visit as a complete failure, especially since he was unable to see either the country’s top military leader, Senior General Than Shwe, or Daw Suu Kyi. Since then there has been growing concern that the UN’s efforts to encourage change in Burma had collapsed, largely because of the regime’s intransigence.

“Mr Gambari’s efforts should not be judged on the results of a single visit,” said a senior UN official. “What he wants to do is revive the ‘process’ and he wants to try some shuttle diplomacy in the hope that this might give the UN a role in the country’s national reconciliation.”

Mr Gambari hopes to make a series of short visits to Burma in the coming months in the lead-up to the Asean summit with other Asian leaders in Thailand in April.

The envoy’s itinerary during his four-day visit is currently being finalised. “We are still working on the modalities of the visit,” Mr Gambari told the Bangkok Post before he left New York.

During this trip he expects to meet senior members of the military government, opposition leaders, including Daw Suu Kyi, who is currently under house arrest in Rangoon, and representatives of the country’s ethnic minorities, according to senior UN officials who declined to be identified. continue

23.01. UN envoy to test waters in Burma’s political quagmire

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