New York, NY (BBN) – Members of a group of nations helping Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his efforts to spur change in Burma, officially known as Myanmar, on Saturday encouraged the government of the Asian country to work more closely with the UN to deal with issues of concern.

The Group of Friends on Myanmar, which comprises 14 countries and one regional bloc, also unanimously backed the Secretary-General’s good offices on this issue and its implementation through his Special Advisor, Ibrahim Gambari.

The Group’s comments were made in a statement issued by the spokesperson of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who convened and chaired a high-level meeting of the countries in New York on the day.

That statement described Saturday’s meeting as “a useful and constructive discussion,” and noted that the involvement of so many high-level officials indicated “the importance that the international community attaches to the situation in Myanmar.”

The participants included the Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the High Representative of the European Union (EU), as well as government ministers from concerned countries, according to the statement.

“While noting the recent actions taken by the government of Myanmar, members of the Group also further encouraged it to work more closely with and respond more positively with the United Nations good offices to address key issues of concern to the international community, especially the release of prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and the initiation of an all-inclusive dialogue between the Government and the opposition.”

Ms. Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for 12 of the past 18 years and her current period of detention started in 2003.

The Group of Friends also “encouraged all parties in Myanmar to seize the opportunity of the UN good offices, while stressing the responsibility of the Myanmar Government to demonstrate its stated commitment to cooperation with the good offices through further tangible results.”

The Group, founded in December last year, represents a balanced range of views on Myanmar and was set up to hold informal discussions and develop shared approaches to support UN efforts. The Friends are: Australia, China, the EU, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Norway, Russia, Singapore, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States and Viet Nam.

BBN/SI/SS/AD-28September08-1:43 PM