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ASEAN must follow up on consensus: China Daily editorial | Updated: 2021-04-26 19:43
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A bird flies near the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) secretariat building, ahead of the ASEAN leaders' meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, April 23, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

The chairman's statement capping the special Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting on Myanmar, which convened the country's military leader and the foreign ministers and/or leaders of the other nine member countries, reached a consensus on the need to end the violence and for constructive dialogue engaging "all parties". Agreement was also reached on a visit to Myanmar by a delegation to "meet all parties concerned", a special ASEAN envoy to act as mediator between the two sides and humanitarian assistance.

Despite media reports on the allegedly last-minute deletion of a call for the release of political prisoners, that the meeting took place and produced a consensus is in itself an inspiring start to a potentially promising process that may pave the way for a political solution to the crisis in Myanmar.

As Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said of the meeting, it was both "timely and important". The confrontation in Myanmar is concerning in that it has not only resulted in bloodshed, but also left the nation in turmoil and increasingly isolated from the international community.

The meeting may not be perfect in all eyes. For instance, there have been complaints regarding representation. But nothing is more important than stopping the violence, opening the door to peaceful engagement, and kick-starting a process of domestic reconciliation. And the meeting, the first face-to-face meeting of the ASEAN members since the onset of the pandemic, demonstrated the ASEAN members' strong, shared political will to resolve the crisis.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar military leader who participated in the meeting, offered no comment on the chairman's statement. But his promise of constructive interaction with ASEAN has been broadly construed as acceptance. Having the matter mediated by and resolved with neighboring countries' assistance within the ASEAN framework is in the best interests of Myanmar as a country as well as its leadership.

Of course, the statement alone is no reason for blind optimism. The absence of a timeline, and ASEAN's perceived "weakness" have already been cited as reasons for pessimism. But ASEAN-led mediation may actually be the best possible approach to ending the present strife in Myanmar. Although at the end of the day, it is up to the leaders and people of Myanmar to sit down to talk and find a mutually acceptable way out.

Myanmar has suffered enough from the domestic divide. The current pattern of interaction between the parties only amplifies such divide. The consensus reached on Saturday demonstrates ASEAN's sense of responsibility in trying to bridge that divide. China on its part sincerely hopes that ASEAN can play a constructive role in promoting a peaceful, negotiated political solution to restore normalcy and stability in Myanmar.

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