NAYPYITAW -- European foreign ministers on Monday urged Myanmar to work quickly to resolve the Rohingya refugee crisis and lauded progress toward a repatriation agreement with Bangladesh.
European Union representatives met unofficially with State Counselor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's de facto leader, ahead of the Asia-Europe Meeting of foreign ministers that began here that day. Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands of refugees from the ethnic Muslim minority have fled from Myanmar's neighboring Rakhine state, was represented as well.
The Myanmar side outlined the country's response to the crisis at the request of the EU representatives, according to a diplomatic insider familiar with the discussion.
Federica Mogherini, the EU's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, told reporters after the unofficial meeting that she is "very much encouraged by the possibility" that is "real and concrete of Myanmar and Bangladesh reaching an agreement on a bilateral memorandum of understanding" for refugee repatriation.
She pushed for further action, saying that "we believe that stopping the violence, stopping the flow of refugees, and guaranteeing full humanitarian access to Rakhine state and a safe, sustainable repatriation of the refugees is going to be key."
In a speech at the ASEM opening ceremony, Suu Kyi warned of the global threats posed by illegal migration and the spread of terrorism and violent extremism. Some saw this as an effort to justify the military crackdown as a response to attacks by Rohingya militants on government security forces.
The United Nations estimates that more than 620,000 Rohingya have crossed the border into Bangladesh since the clashes in late August. Suu Kyi said in September that Myanmar was ready to begin at any time the verification process for repatriating refugees. But no concrete progress has been made, as the two sides remain at odds over the total number of refugees and the requirements for their return.
Kazuyuki Nakane, a Japanese state minister for foreign affairs, met Monday with Myanmar military chief Min Aung Hlaing and urged him to take appropriate action against any human rights violations.