Norway welcomes agreement on Kachin talks amid autonomy row
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Norway welcomes agreement on Kachin talks amid autonomy row

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway issued a statement that the government of Myanmar/Burma  has reached an agreement with KIO on 4 February, The New Light of Myanmar said Thursday.

The Myanmar Government and the armed group Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) have agreed to continue talks with a view to finding a peaceful solution to the violent conflict in Kachin State. “This is encouraging news,” Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide commented, according to the Norwegian Foreign Ministry’s website.

As said by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, there have been very positive developments in Burma/Myanmar over the last year. Ceasefire agreements have been signed with ten of the major armed ethnic groups. Norway has recognized this improvement as a reconciliation process between the Burma’s various ethnic groups and the government.

Both parties to the Kachin conflict now have a duty to make bold decisions and come to the dialogue table and commit themselves to engaging in genuine political talks. Only when ceasefire is reached in Kachin State, will the first countrywide ceasefire achieve successful since Myanmar/Burma gained independence.

 “It is essential that this historic opportunity to bring about lasting peace is grasped,” Mr Eide said.

Norway also calls on the parties to allow humanitarian aid to reach the conflict-affected population. Norway is willing to provide aid of this kind.

President Thein Sein received Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg at the Credentials Hall of the Presidential Palace on 4 November 2012; the trip of the Norwegian PM aimed to promote stronger cooperation between the two nations.

During his trip, Jens Stoltenberg said Norway looked forward to boosting trade and commercial relations with Burma, revealing opportunities for mutual cooperation in energy, hydropower, oil and natural gas, fishery and communications sectors.

Thein Sein also told Jens Stoltenberg that his government has already made foreign investment law, monetary policy, trade policy and investment policy at the level of international standards. Burma will likely export natural resources to Norway as value-added products, so as to do good to both countries, he said. He called attention to the employment of his citizens as a critical necessity. Thein Sein said he hoped that coming out of the industrial plants and workshops could present many job opportunities.

In addition, the Myanmar Peace Support Initiative (MPSI) was set up in January 2012 at the request of the Myanmar Government with the Norwegian Government playing a lead donor coordination role. It is under the management of Charles Petrie (former UN Resident Coordinator in Myanmar), according to the website of The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Bangkok.

The aim of MPSI is to provide immediate support for the ceasefires agreed to between non-state armed groups (NSAGs) and the government. An important aim is to create local dialogue among stakeholders, in order to support the ceasefires and the building of trust and confidence.

Besides, the Peace Donor Support Group was first held in June 2012 by the government of Norway at the request of President Thein Sein to provide a common platform for dialogue between the donor community and the Burma Government. The group held its inaugural meeting with the President in Napyitaw on 12th June 2012.

To date, approximately US$30 million has been pledged by the members of the Peace Donor Support Group to fund interventions that support conflict-affected communities and  peace-making.

The PDSG have held and will continue to hold regular meetings with President Thein Sein, Minister Aung Min and members of the Union Peace-Making Central Committee. The PDSG members also plan to meet with non-state armed groups, civil society groups, and the wider donor community in the coming months.

According to Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund , Stoltenberg and Eide met with Thein Sein, Suu Kyi and the president of the parliament Shwe Mann. He and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt opened a joint Norwegian-Danish embassy in Yangon (Rangoon) on 5 November (Sunday), with Stoltenberg claiming that cooperation between Norway and Myanmar is “increasing quickly.”

Even though Jens Stoltenberg and Espen Barth Eide give the impression of brilliant appearance, the focal point on economic development is generally risky in the surroundings of resource-rich ethnic regions. Ethnic areas are intertwined with lucrative development and divergence of political beliefs.

The most important argument entangled with the war in Kachin state is the exploitation of hydropower resources and the jade-mines by China as well as the corrupt cronies and military elite at the cost of the local ethnic population. Moreover, the war is also telling the divergence of political beliefs between the military-backed government and the Kachin Independence Organization that hold on to the autonomy.