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Burundi Foreign Minister: Open to Dialogue on Mutual Grounds

FILE - Burundi Foreign Minister Alain Aime Nyamitwe during a summit to discuss the crisis in Burundi, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, May 31, 2015.

Burundi’s foreign minister said his country is open to dialogue with any country or group of countries concerning the political crisis in Burundi.

Alan Nyamitwe said President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government wants peace and democracy in Burundi as well as partnership with the European Union (EU). But he said any consultations cannot be threatening or judgmental.

An EU ministerial meeting in Luxembourg Monday sent a letter to the Burundian government calling for consultations on what it calls non-respect of the protocol of the Cotonou Agreement that governs economic and development relations between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. The Cotonou Agreement lists "good governance" as an "essential element," the violation of which may lead to the partial or complete suspension of development cooperation.

The EU recently expressed concern about the political crisis in Burundi and President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial re-election, a move that his critics called a violation of the Burundian constitution.

According to reports, the Burundian government has 30 days to respond to the letter. Foreign Minister Nyamitwe says his government will respond accordingly after receiving the letter.

“We are talking about the Cotonou Agreement, and one talks about an agreement, you understand two sides: There is the side of the ACP membership and the side of the European Union. Now, EU has her opinion on how affairs are being conducted in the membership. But it does not have the right to decide vis-à-vis the other states,” he said.

Nyamitwe said Burundi welcomes the opportunity to defend its position and clarify a number of issues which might not have been clear to the EU and other partners.

“Clearly what we want is peace in this country; what we want is more democracy in this country; what we want is more partnership with the EU and with other partners,” Nyamitwe said.

The European Union has set aside $477 million in assistance to Burundi for 2014 through 2020, to help the country recover from its brutal 1993-2005 civil war that killed an estimated 300,000 people.

The African Union’s Peace and Security Council earlier this month imposed targeted sanctions against Burundians who contribute to the perpetuation of violence as well as impede the search for a solution to the crisis facing the country.

Nyamitwe said while both Burundi and the European Union have obligations under the Cotonou Agreement, they also each have rights.

“So until such a time when we shall have sat down and discuss the issues, I believe it’s too early to make pronouncements. We have always sought the good of the country, and we will take that opportunity to demonstrate point-blank that what we did we wanted more democracy and more peace in the country,” Nyamitwe said.

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