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This week at the Foreign Office

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A look at the work of the Foreign Office and its Embassies overseas this week.

Foreign Secretary William Hague made an historic visit to Burma this week, during which he met President Thein Sein, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and representatives of ethnic minorities.

During the visit, the first by any British foreign secretary in 50 years, Foreign Secretary William Hague called on the Burmese Government to continue the reforms it has undertaken in the last six months and to make further progress.

Speaking after his meeting with Burmese government representatives, including President Thein Sein, Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin and Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann, Foreign Secretary William Hague said:

“I made clear that the British government expects to see the release of all political prisoners, credible by-elections in April, and a genuine alleviation of the suffering in ethnic areas, including through humanitarian access and peace talks. I spoke of the long-standing friendship that exists between our two peoples, one that can and should form the foundation of improved relations across the board between our two countries. I made clear that the British government stands ready to respond positively to evidence of further progress towards that lasting improvement in human rights and political freedom that the people of Burma seek.”

On the 5 January, the Foreign Secretary met Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, to discuss progress on political dialogue. He presented her with the 2011 Chatham House Prize, which is awarded annually for the most significant contribution to the improvement of international relations in the past year.

Commenting on the Foreign Secretary’s Facebook page, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed the visit, and the support of the UK.

At a press conference in Rangoon today, marking the end of his visit to Burma, the Foreign Secretary said:

“My visit is a gesture of good intent on the part of the United Kingdom in the light of these changes. I have come to hear directly from the country’s leaders what they plan to do to continue progress, and to speak to opposition figures and members of civil society about British support for their endeavours.

“My message is that if the country continues on this promising path, as we hope it will, we are ready to offer a new relationship based on friendship and prosperity.”

You can read more about the visit on Storify, and view more photos on Flickr.

On 4 January the Foreign Secretary welcomed the Foreign Affairs Committee’s report into Piracy off the coast of Somalia. In his statement the Foreign Secretary said that the forthcoming London Conference on Somalia will aim to chart a way forward on the future political direction of Somalia, the vital humanitarian effort and the international community’s approach to tackling piracy.

In his New Years message, the Foreign Secretary looked forward to an historic year in 2012, which will see the UK elebrate Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and host the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. He said: “We will extend a welcome to the world in 2012 and demonstrate what makes the UK a great place to live, work, visit, invest and do business.”

On Thursday Minister for the Middle East and North Africa Alistair Burt condemned the attack on Shia pilgrims in Nasiriya and the bombings in Baghdad on 5 January. Minister Burt denounced these atrocities, and called on the political parties and leadership in Iraq to renew efforts to break the current political impasse and focus on bringing security and stability to the citizens of Iraq.

Alistair Burt welcomed the meeting of Palestinian and Israeli negotiators in Jordan on 3 January, and the announcement of further planned meetings under the framework of the Quartet statement of 23 September.

Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne sent his sympathies to the family of former Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov who died on 2 January. Mr Browne said: “I was saddened to hear of the death of former President Kiro Gligorov. He will be remembered with admiration for leading his country to independence without conflict.”