The foreign ministers of 45 Asian and European countries met in Hanoi Monday for talks on the global economy but found themselves wrapped up with the issues of Burma.
The foreign ministers had expected to take up the question of how Europe and Asia could cooperate to pull the world’s economy out of the downturn it has fallen into since the global financial crisis began. But the highest-profile session of the so-called ASEM group (Asia Europe Meeting), took place between representatives of the European Union and Burma.
The European Union called for the Burmese government to release opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. She is on trial for violating the terms of the house arrest under which the government has held her for 14 of the past 20 years.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said releasing Suu Kyi was crucial to pave the way for planned elections in Burma next year.
“What is necessary for those elections is to have an inclusive dialogue with all political forces in the country. That is the necessary precondition for the stability that I think everyone is seeking for the country to be able to move forward. And for that to be possible, there must of course be freedom for the different political forces.” He said.