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Elders Group voices support of reform in Myanmar

Myanmar President Thein Sein, second from right, with former US President Jimmy Carter, second from left, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, right, and former Norway's Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland during their meeting at the Presidential palace in Naypyitaw on September 25, 2013. (Photo: President's Office)

The Elders Group delegation, comprising three former foreign leaders, voiced support of Myanmar's reform Thursday, encouraging all parties in the country to advance the reform process during the transition period.

The Elders Group delegation is made up of former President of the United States and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jimmy Carter, former President of Finland and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Marti Ahtisaari and former Prime Minister of Norway Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland.

Welcoming the work of a range of local and international actors involved in supporting Myanmar's peace process with ethnic minority armed groups and addressing ongoing violence in Rakhine state, the Elders Group, led by Jimmy Carter, told the press on the conclusion of their three-day first visit to Myanmar that they anticipate remaining engaged in the country in the coming years.

Commenting on Myanmar's political reform process, Jimmy Carter disclosed that the group had constructive discussions with President U Thein Sein and Defense Chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing in Nay Pyi Taw.

"We were impressed by the pace with which reforms are proceeding. Myanmar is becoming a more open society," he said.

He expressed trust that there will be no political prisoners in Myanmar by the end of the year as U Thein Sein pledged.

During their discussions, amendment of Myanmar's constitution, improvement of socio-economic status in conflict areas and settlement on long-term coexistence of two communities in conflicted Rakhine state were also touched upon.

Carter added that the group was struck by the growing contribution and leadership of women in civil society.

Commenting on the prospect of peace between the government and the ethnic minority armed groups in the border regions, Marti Ahtisaari stressed the need to carefully manage the factors underlying the conflicts, citing contest for land and other natural resources.

Commenting on the inter-communal strife, Gro Harlem Brundtland encouraged religious leaders to work with compassion and tolerance.

During their visit, the Elders Group also met with political leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi, religious leaders and civil society groups including women's organizations.

The independent Elders Group, based in London, was founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007 and chaired by Kofi Annan.

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