China has blocked an effort by the United States and European countries to have the Security Council condemn Myanmar’s violent crackdown on protesters.
But Ban Ki Moon, the UN secretary general, obtained the council’s endorsement for the immediate dispatch of a special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, to the country.
In a statement read Wednesday by Jean-Maurice Ripert, the ambassador of France, the council president for September, the members “urged restraint” by the government and “underlined the importance that Gambari be received by the authorities of Myanmar as soon as possible.”
Gambari has traveled to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, twice before and was already scheduled to return there in October.
According to participants in the session, Wang Guangya, the Chinese ambassador, told council members that the conflict in Myanmar was a domestic one that had to be settled by the people of Myanmar and that even a statement by the council would “not be useful.”
Addressing reporters outside the council chamber, Wang said, “The situation there has some problems, but does not constitute a threat to international and regional peace.” His words were carefully chosen since the council can become involved in only those crises that are deemed threats to international security.
Wang said that China supported Gambari’s urgent trip. “We want to see the secretary general’s special adviser there as soon as possible,” he said.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador, expressed disappointment with the outcome. “We would have hoped for a very strong statement condemning what has happened, but the Security Council is made up of many members,” he said.
He said it was imperative that Gambari be given prompt access to Myanmar. “It would not be good for Gambari to visit grave sites after many more Burmese have been killed,” he said.
China and Russia vetoed an American-drafted resolution in January that called on Myanmar to release all political prisoners, cease attacks on ethnic minorities and speed transition to democracy. Their argument then was the same as the one used by China on Wednesday: that the disturbances were domestic matters and did not pose a regional threat.
Ban presumably pressed his case for Gambari’s mission in a previous afternoon meeting with Nyan Win, Myanmar’s foreign minister, but Marie Okabe, a UN spokeswoman, would not comment on what had happened during what she described as a tête-à-tête.
Beijing urges restraint by all
China on Thursday called on all sides in Myanmar to exercise restraint and told the foreign media not to worsen the situation by exaggerating events, The Associated Press reported from Beijing.
“China hopes all parties can exercise restraint and properly handle the situation,” a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, said at a media briefing. She said foreign reports risked “exaggerating and hyping up” the situation.
The unfolding crackdown by Myanmar’s government against democracy demonstrators has put China in a difficult position. The communist government has developed close diplomatic ties with Myanmar’s government and is a major trading partner and investor. But with the Beijing Olympics 11 months away, China has been fending off criticism that it shelters unpopular or abusive regimes around the world. IHT