(Mizzima) – The European Union may lift some sanctions on Burma, but British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Wednesday it was too early to judge how free the elections were.
"But certainly they appear to have been a very important moment of change,” he said.
The EU's executive commission hinted on Monday that the bloc's foreign ministers would lift some sanctions on Burma when it meets on April 23.
"There are still political prisoners being held so the process of releasing them is not complete. We will keep up the pressure on that but I anticipate flexibility and our readiness to remove some of the restrictive measures given the improvement in the situation," Hague said, according to a Reuters news agency article on Wednesday.
"That does not mean an instant and complete opening up of trade with Burma," added Hague, who visited Burma in January, the first foreign minister from the former colonial power to do so since 1955.
The EU agreed in January to suspend visa bans on Burma’s President Thein Sein and other senior officials following the release of hundreds of political prisoners.
EU countries are reportedly divided over how fast to remove remaining sanctions, with Germany and Italy among those pushing for scrapping the measures immediately while Britain and France are part of a group favouring a gradual easing.
Hague, speaking to an audience that included representatives of the tourism industry, talked up Burma’s potential as a tourist destination.
"I think if this change continues one of the things they can look forward to in Burma is a real booming tourist industry ... but tapping fully into that potential does require this path of reform that Burma has embarked on to be truly and fully implemented. We will keep up the pressure in the mean time," he said.