Burma’s government invited Aung San Suu Kyi to a meeting on Friday with the president, state-run television reported, in her highest contact with the new, nominally civilian government since her release from house arrest in November.
Suu Kyi and President Thein Sein held “frank and friendly discussions” to “find ways and means of co-operation,” the state-run broadcast reported while airing video of them greeting each other.
The 66-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate has repeatedly called for political dialogue with the government since her release from seven years of house arrest.
If Suu Kyi’s opposition party reaches an accommodation with the government, it could serve as a reason for Western nations to lift political and economic embargoes on the country that have hindered development and pushed it into dependence on neighbouring China.
Nyan Win, the spokesman for Suu Kyi’s Nation League for Democracy party told the AP that Suu Kyi’s meeting “could be the first step toward national reconciliation,” but declined to elaborate until details were available.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said his government welcomed the reported meeting.
“These are positive steps, and we continue to call for the Burmese government to follow its rhetoric with concrete action towards national reconciliation and progress on core issues of concern to the international community, including the release of political prisoners,” Toner said.
It remains unclear if the government is committed to a dialogue with the country’s most prominent opposition leader, and whether it would be willing to discuss the kinds of reforms that would restore its legitimacy with the international community. The country’s leaders previously have failed to follow through on pledges to initiate substantial reform.
Suu Kyi made her first trip to the administrative capital Naypyitaw on Friday and later went into the meeting with Thein Sein, the official said.
Thin Sein took power in March after an election that critics dismissed as a sham to create a nominally civilian government while entrenching the country’s military rulers. The new government is led by retired military figures, and the constitution ensures the military retains dominance.
However, the new government has become more open about meeting with dissidents, and has introduced some economic reforms.