U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres met on Tuesday with Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been facing rising global pressure to solve the crisis for her nation’s displaced Rohingya Muslim minority.
During the meeting that took place in the Philippines, Mr. Guterres told the Nobel laureate that hundreds of thousands of displaced Muslims who had fled to Bangladesh should be allowed to return to their homes in Myanmar.
“The Secretary-General highlighted that strengthened efforts to ensure humanitarian access, safe, dignified, voluntary and sustained returns, as well as true reconciliation between communities, would be essential,” a U.N. statement said, summarising comments to Ms. Suu Kyi.
— U.S. Embassy in the Philippines (@usembassymanila) November 14, 2017
Mr. Guterres’ comments came hours before Ms. Suu Kyi sat down with Mr. Tillerson on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Manila.
Washington has been cautious in its statements on the situation in Rakhine, and has avoided outright criticism of Ms. Suu Kyi.
Supporters say she must navigate a path between outrage abroad and popular feeling in a majority Buddhist country where most people believe the Rohingya are interlopers.
At a photo opportunity at the top of her meeting with Mr. Tillerson, Ms. Suu Kyi ignored a journalist who asked if the Rohingya were citizens of Myanmar.
At a later appearance after the meeting, Mr. Tillerson – who is headed to Myanmar on Wednesday – was asked by reporters if he “had a message for Burmese leaders”.
He apparently ignored the question, replying only: “Thank you”, according to a pool report of the encounter.
More than 600,000 Rohingya have flooded into Bangladesh since late August, and now live in the squalor of the world’s biggest refugee camp.
The crisis erupted after Rohingya rebels attacked police posts in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, triggering a military crackdown that saw hundreds of villages reduced to ashes and sparked a massive exodus.
The UN says the Myanmar military is engaged in a “coordinated and systematic” attempt to purge the region of Rohingya in what amounts to a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”