Myanmar signs ceasefire with two rebel groups amid decades of conflict

Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi, right, and Myanmar’s President Htin Kyaw, left, sign documents for the ceasefire agreement with two ethnic armed groups. (AP)
Updated 13 February 2018
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Myanmar signs ceasefire with two rebel groups amid decades of conflict

SINGAPORE: Two ethnic armed groups in Myanmar signed a ceasefire with the government on Tuesday, as leader Aung San Suu Kyi seeks to revive a stuttering peace process to end decades of conflict.
Ending near-perpetual civil war has been Suu Kyi’s stated top priority, but the Buddhist-majority country has seen the worst fighting with rebels in years since she took office almost two years ago.
The peace process, which has been eclipsed in media coverage by the plight of hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya refugees fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh from violence in the northwest, is key to unlocking the resource-rich country’s potential and guaranteeing development for its more than 50 million people.
New Mon State Party and the Lahu Democratic Union signed the National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) after meeting Suu Kyi and the military’s commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, in the capital Naypyitaw last month.
Speaking at a signing ceremony in Naypyitaw, Suu Kyi said the next step was to cement the ceasefire with groups that have already signed, and bring the remaining armed groups into the agreement through dialogue.
The latest two signatories have not engaged in active fighting with the military in recent years, but analysts said it marks a positive move for negotiations with other armed groups.
At least 10 rebel groups have not joined the NCA, an accord negotiated by the previous quasi-civilian administration. Suu Kyi has opened a new round of talks with some of the groups since last May.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner had been criticized overseas for not standing up for the largely stateless Rohingya in the western state of Rakhine, where an army crackdown forced more than 688,000 to flee to Bangladesh since August 25 last year.
The United Nations described Myanmar’s crackdown as ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, a charge Myanmar denies.


US not ‘afraid to tackle’ Iran regime at ‘highest level’: Pompeo

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (AP)
Updated 26 min 13 sec ago
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US not ‘afraid to tackle’ Iran regime at ‘highest level’: Pompeo

  • The offensive is meant to work in concert with severe economic sanctions that Washington plans to reimpose in the coming months

WASHINGTON: The United States is not afraid to sanction top-ranking leaders of the “nightmare” Iranian regime, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday, pursuing a strategy aimed at Iranian compliance with stringent US demands.
Following Washington’s pullout from the Iran nuclear accord that stunned Washington’s closest European allies, Pompeo on May 21 unveiled the “new strategy” to force Iran’s submission to a dozen demands.
“We weren’t afraid to tackle the regime at its highest level,” Pompeo said in a speech to the Iranian diaspora in California, referring to sanctions leveled in January against Sadeq Larijani, the head of Iran’s judiciary, for human rights violations.
Pompeo also confirmed that Washington wants all countries to reduce their imports of Iranian oil “as close to zero as possible” by November 4, or face American sanctions.
“There’s more to come,” Pompeo said of the US financial penalties.
US President Donald Trump on May 8 decided to restore all the sanctions that had been lifted as part of a multi-national agreement, signed on to by former president Barack Obama’s administration in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.
The 2015 agreement was in response to fears that Iran was developing a nuclear bomb.
European allies maintain their support for that hard-won deal and are trying all means to save it.
“Regime leaders — especially those at the top of the IRGC and the Quds Force like Qasem Soleimani — must be made to feel painful consequences of their bad decision making,” said Pompeo, a longtime Iran hawk.
He was referring to Iran’s special forces and Revolutionary Guards.
Roundly applauded by his audience, Pompeo affirmed support by Washington for protesters in the Islamic republic.
“The regime in Iran has been a nightmare for the Iranian people,” he said.
Pompeo announced an intensified American propaganda campaign, with the launch of a multimedia channel with 24-hour coverage on television, radio, and social media.
This will ensure that “ordinary Iranians inside Iran and around the globe can know that America stands with them,” he said.
Regularly suspected of favoring regime change in Iran, Pompeo refused to distinguish between moderates and radicals at the heart of the Iranian republic.
“Our hope is that ultimately the regime will make meaningful changes in its behavior both inside Iran and globally,” he said.
Under Washington’s tougher line after withdrawal from the international nuclear accord, Pompeo has said the US would lift its new sanctions if Iran ended its ballistic missile program and interventions in regional conflicts from Yemen to Syria.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has dismissed such threats, saying the rest of the world no longer accepts Washington making decisions on their behalf.