Vatican and Myanmar agree to establish diplomatic ties

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican and Myanmar formally agreed Thursday to establish full diplomatic relations, the Vatican announced, confirming an accord that is the latest step in the country’s rehabilitation by the international community.

The Vatican said it would appoint a papal nuncio to Yangon and that the government of Myanmar would open an embassy at the Vatican.

The announcement came just after State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi met Pope Francis on the latest leg of a European tour overshadowed by last year’s security crackdown in Rakhin State. 

Pope Francis has spoken out in the past on behalf of the Rohingya while Aung San Suu Kyi has come under fire for not condemning repression of the minority group by her country’s security forces.

She and a small group of officials spent around 20 minutes in Thursday’s audience with the leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics.

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Francis presented the former dissident with a bronze medallion with an image of a blooming desert.

Aung San Suu Kyi had talks on Wednesday with Italian foreign minister Angelino Alfano and with EU and Belgian officials in Brussels on Tuesday. She is also due to visit Britain.

In Brussels she reiterated her opposition to a decision by the UN human rights body to send a fact-finding mission to Myanmar to investigate allegations of murder, rape and torture against the Rohingya in Rakhine state.

Alfano said in a statement he had discussed the process of national reconciliation in the country formerly known as Burma, without elaborating.

Francis denounced the treatment of the minority Rohingya in February, saying they were being tortured and killed for their faith.

In an address in St Peter’s square he described the Rohingya as “good and peaceful people who have suffered for years,” urging Catholics to pray for their “brothers and sisters” in Myanmar.

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