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FCA Lunch: Bernard KOUCHNER, French Minister of Foreign & European Affairs

  • 29 Oct 2007
  • Traders Hotel Singapore. T: 6738.2222
  • 1215-1400
  • $32 - FCA Members
    $42 - Working Journalists (non-FCA member)
    $55 - All others (non-FCA member, non-working journalist)

    PLEASE register by this Friday, 26 October.
Bernard KOUCHNER, French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, will dine with, and speak to the Foreign Correspondents Association of Singapore on Monday, 29 October from 1215pm-1400. After lunch he will take media questions. It will likely be an engaging and informative afternoon with Minister Kouchner. This event is part of his official stop in Singapore, during which he'll talk with local government officials. Due to his tight time schedule, this will be the only opportunity for most Singapore-based media to meet with him and ask questions. Minister Kouchner - who is also holds a Doctor of Medicine - has held many Ministerial portfolios over the years. Briefly, he was the senior civil servant and United Nations Secretary-General�s Special Representative for Kosovo (1999-2001), Founder (1980) of M�decins du Monde [non-profit organization whose members provide medical care in the third world], co-founder and president of M�decins sans Fronti�res and has led humanitarian missions to help victims in most of the major natural and industrial disasters and political crises since 1968. Minister Kouchner is also an outspoken diplomat on the issue of the recent crackdown against pro-democracy marches in Myanmar. See IHT article below: International Herald Tribune Keeping the momentum on Burma� By Bernard Kouchner and David Miliband 14 October 2007 The world has reacted with horror to the Burmese regime�s brutal crackdown against its own people. Monks, nuns and ordinary citizens took to the streets peacefully in protest at the deterioration of the economic situation in the country. They were met with guns and batons. We cannot know for sure the number of those who were killed, but it is likely to be many more than the regime is willing to admit. The whereabouts and welfare of many who have been detained remain uncertain. Meanwhile, the persecution continues: the security forces carry out new raids and new arrests every night. It is vital that international pressure on the Burmese regime is maintained. The generals may have hoped that by shutting off the Internet and targeting the media they could hide their crimes from the eyes of the world. If so, they have failed. This horrific repression has provoked disgust and anger across the globe. The immediate priority is to end the violence and secure the release of all of the political detainees. At the same time, it is vital that the regime works urgently with the UN special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, to establish a genuine process of national reconciliation. That process will need to be very different from the widely discredited "National Convention Process" over which the regime has labored for many years without winning the confidence of Burma�s population. It must involve Aung San Suu Kyi and the leaders of all Burma�s political opposition and ethnic groups. And it must have international legitimacy, with the United Nations and Burma�s neighbours closely engaged. Everyone who has influence on the Burmese regime must now use it to convince them of this new reality. The generals have now seen a very strong statement by the UN Security Council deploring the violence, calling for the release of all political prisoners and supporting genuine dialogue with all concerned parties and ethnic groups in Burma. The junta will have heard members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations express their revulsion at the recent violence by the security forces. China, as well as joining the Security Council statement, directly supported Gambari�s recent visit to Burma. Other neighbours - India and Thailand, for example - can also play a vital role in helping to build a better future for the people of Burma. It is clear that for Asean in particular turning a blind eye to such a repressive government would damage its credibility and jeopardize the whole process of democratization and development of the region. Last month, as the demonstrations grew in intensity, the European Union made it plain that it would not hesitate to impose tougher measures against the regime if it resorted to force against peaceful demonstrators. Sadly, the regime failed to heed this, and many similar, warnings. So Europe�s foreign ministers will be meeting on Monday to discuss how to toughen up sanctions against the Burmese regime. EU sanctions currently include a travel ban and asset freeze on specific individuals and a ban on commercial dealings with specific state companies with close ties to the regime. On Monday, the European Union will target those sectors from which the regime draws much of its revenue, including timber, precious metals and gems, and will make clear that whether further measures are imposed will depend entirely on the regime�s willingness to allow genuine political progress. All the signs point to a regime that feels the pressure. These new measures will help to maintain that pressure by focusing on the business interests of the regime rather than the wider population. The EU must also offer positive incentives for progress. The EU needs to consider a package of positive measures to the Burmese people should the regime show its willingness to genuinely work for reconciliation. In the meantime, we will continue to provide vital humanitarian assistance to the Burmese people in order to alleviate the suffering of the population. EU sanctions, of course, can only be part of a wider process aimed at creating genuine reconciliation in Burma. The key role must be played by the Burmese people themselves, in all their diversity. This will be demanding; Burma, as some scholars have said, is a fragile "unfinished mosaic," with dozens of ethnic minorities, idioms and cultures. Burma�s regional partners have understandable concerns that the necessary political changes should not endanger regional stability. So the process must be broad-based and inclusive. And, as Aung San Suu Kyi has said, the military must play an important part in a future democratic Burma. But the military dictatorship must end. The Burmese people have been denied democracy and economic development for 45 years. They have taken to the streets once again and, in the face of horrific violence, demanded a better future. It�s high time their leaders responded. (Bernard Kouchner and David Miliband are foreign ministers, respectively, of France and Britain.)

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