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Cablegate: Burma: Uk Offers Insight Into Eu Position, Thoughts On Usg Policy Review

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LONDON 002761

NOFORN SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/MLS (LAURA SCHEIBE)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/10/2019

TAGS: PREL PGOV BM UK

SUBJECT: BURMA: UK OFFERS INSIGHT INTO EU POSITION, THOUGHTS ON USG POLICY REVIEW REF: STATE 121789

Classified By: Political Counselor Robin Quinville, reasons 1.4 (b/d).

1.(C/NF) Summary. The UK fully supports the USG's strategy review on Burma, but notes that the flexibility in the position requires more work in maintaining a hard-line until progress is made amongst international community partners and within the EU. Foreign Office officials support continued USG engagement with international partners to ensure they do not hear only what they want to - i.e. engagement - and miss the need for the Burmese authorities to respond positively and take advantage of the opportunities before them. They said the EU is considering the possibility of a senior EU official visit to Burma or a brief meeting on the margins of Copenhagen. The UK welcomes continued coordination with the USG and joint scenario planning on how to politically handle the outcome of the elections next year. End summary.

USG Strategy Review Helpful and Unhelpful -----------------------------------------

2.(C/NF) Responding to reftel, Foreign Office Burma and Mekong Team leaders Gill Lever and Nigel Boud told Poloff the UK fully supports the USG's new approach to Burma and looks forward to working together in implementing it. Lever and Boud assessed that the review had been both helpful and unhelpful. It is helpful in that it provides a means to end Burma's isolation (which fits with the EU's common position), but unhelpful in that it has caused China and some other Asian countries to soften their position and has renewed discussion within the EU about maintaining hard-edged measures like sanctions. Lever cited China's decision to stop pushing a collective pardon upon the Secretary's announcement of engagement at the September Group of Friends of Burma meeting. Lever said the international community needs to work with China to ensure that it continues to maintain pressure on the Burmese authorities. Boud also said some EU states (notably Spain, Germany, and Italy) had "heard what they wanted to hear" about re-engagement and have subsequently started discussions within the EU about relaxing the current measures. He said that the engagement done by the U.S. Ambassador in Thailand with the EU Heads of Mission had been helpful to remind EU partners that the regime needs to make progress before sanctions should be reassessed.

3.(C/NF) Boud said the EU was struggling with its Burma policy and gave Poloff a copy of the EU's internal policy document on the way forward (emailed to EAP/MLS), on condition of complete confidentiality. Boud said the UK had also shared it with Australian diplomats and that the Swedes as EU President will likely share the document officially with the USG in the near future. Both Lever and Boud were interested to hear USG thoughts on the document and offered to try to integrate any comments into the EU's policy framework.

4.(C/NF) Boud also confirmed that the EU is exploring the possibility of a senior official visiting Burma in the near future, probably the EU Asia Director, but no one more senior. He said Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt is also considering the possibility of a brief meeting on the margins of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, if the Burmese send someone at an appropriate level.

Looking to the Elections ------------------------

5.(C/NF) Looking to the elections, Lever said the UK is doing some scenario planning, especially since they are likely to have "muddy legitimacy." The UK is looking for approaches that would acknowledge that the outcome is likely to be a re-badging of the military, but possibly with some bright spots around the edges that offer an opportunity for engagement. Lever welcomed an opportunity for joint U.S.-UK planning on how to politically handle the outcome of the elections next year. She noted that the very robust domestic UK lobby on Burma hamstrings much of what the Foreign Office can do because it presses UK politicians very forcefully to maintain a strong, hard-edged line on Burma. Visit London's Classified Website: LONDON 00002761 002 OF 002 XXXXXXXXXXXX
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