Myanmar legislators visit EU parliament

Myanmar lawmakers paid the country's first ever visit to the European parliament on Thursday in a new sign of growing warmth between the European Union and the Southeast Asian nation.

Headed by lower house speaker U Shwe Mann, the delegation, including two other parliamentarians and a dozen officials, was to meet EU president Herman Van Rompuy and the bloc's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

The president of the parliament, Martin Schulz, said the talks notably served to recognise reforms carried out so far in the long-isolated nation.

"The recent impressive democratic opening of the country gives us much hope and optimism," Schulz said in a statement.

He said the parliament was ready to assist its partner institution in Naypyidaw and had reiterated a standing invitation to Aung San Suu Kyi to collect personally her 1990 Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought.

"I hope this will become possible in the nearest future," he added.

The EU last month decided to suspend almost all sanctions against Myanmar -- a move due to take effect on Friday -- and sent Ashton to Yangon to open an EU office in a first step towards establishing a full diplomatic mission.

After decades under a repressive junta, Myanmar has seen a thaw in its relations with the international community since President Thein Sein ushered in broad changes on coming to power last year, including welcoming Suu Kyi's party into the political mainstream.

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