PARIS (Reuters) - France will urge its European Union partners to consider easing sanctions on Myanmar after Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi won a parliamentary seat in an April 1 election, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Thursday.
The United States said a day earlier it was ready to relax some sanctions on Myanmar to recognise its fledgling democratic transition, including a ban on U.S. companies investing in, or offering financial services to, the country.
Juppe said Europe had to make a “gesture”, given the outcome of the election in the resource-rich Southeast Asian country.
“I will propose to Brussels’ (EU) partners to make a gesture on easing some sanctions,” he said.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won in a landslide, a victory she hailed as a “triumph of the people” after decades of military dictatorship.
The EU’s executive Commission hinted on Monday that the bloc’s foreign ministers would lift some sanctions on Myanmar when they meet on April 23.
Suu Kyi, who led opposition to military rule for 20 years and on Sunday won a lower house seat, noted there had been voting irregularities in the poll that accounted for only a small fraction of the 440-seat lower house and 224-seat senate.
While sanctions have blocked Western investments, China has become Myanmar’s biggest ally, investing in infrastructure, hydropower dams and twin oil-and-gas pipelines to help feed southern China’s growing energy needs.
“People say that sanctions don’t work, but in Myanmar’s case the regime realised that due to its isolation they were in China’s pocket ... that helps explain its change in stance,” Juppe said.
Reporting by John Irish and Catherine Bremer; editing by Maria Golovnina