Luxembourg: The European Union suspended its sanctions against Myanmar on Monday for a year following a wave of widely praised political reforms in the country, but will retain an embargo on arms sales, officials said.
The EU wants to support the progress made in the southeastern Asian nation "so it becomes irreversible”, said foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. She will travel to Myanmar, also known as Burma, this week.
The measures were adopted by the bloc`s foreign ministers at a meeting in Luxembourg, said spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic. Sanctions currently target more than 800 companies and nearly 500 people, and include the withholding of some development aid.
European and US officials have pointed to significant reforms in Myanmar over the past year. These include more freedom for the media and political opposition parties, and the election to Parliament of former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi, whose arrest originally drove the imposition of the penalties.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague highlighted the fact that sanctions were being suspended rather than lifted completely.
"We remain very concerned about conflict and human rights abuses in some ethnic areas of Burma," Hague said.
The effectiveness of US and EU sanctions has been undermined by China, India and Southeast Asian nations that maintain flourishing business ties with Myanmar. EU nations are concerned that they are lagging behind in both the political and economic fields as Myanmar increasingly opens up.