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ASEAN Ministers Conclude First High-Level Meeting in Burma

Participants in the ASEAN meeting in Bagan, Burma, Jan 17, 2014.

Participants in the ASEAN meeting in Bagan, Burma, Jan 17, 2014.

ASEAN foreign ministers have concluded the first-ever high-level meeting hosted by Burma, also known as Myanmar, since the once-isolated country joined the grouping in 1997.

Burmese Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin told reporters in the town of Bagan the participants discussed topics of regional importance Friday, including maritime territorial disputes between China and ASEAN members Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.

"Regarding the regional and international issue, ministers have underscored the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the region. In this connection, the members attest to the importance of ASEAN solidarity in addressing the key issues in the region that include the South China Sea and the Korean peninsula," said Lwin.

But he said they avoided discussing the current political problems in Thailand and Cambodia, saying they would not comment on the internal affairs of the two countries.

Burma's role chairing ASEAN follows political reforms that have led to the lifting of most international sanctions.

President Thein Sein's government has won praise for freeing hundreds of political prisoners, lifting censorship laws and holding elections in which many opposition members won seats in parliament.

However, critics say the country has not done enough, pointing to continuing sectarian violence against Muslims and the country's remaining political prisoners.

Burma, which joined ASEAN in 1997, was passed over for the chairmanship in 2006.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Burmese service