YANGON - The EU’s chief diplomat urged Myanmar to make its progress towards democracy “irreversible” after meeting Aung San Suu Kyi Saturday amid Western efforts to bolster reforms in the former pariah state. Catherine Ashton’s visit for talks with the newly-elected opposition leader and government comes days after the EU suspended a wide range of sanctions against the long-isolated country to reward its recent political reforms. Ashton, who hailed a “new chapter” in relations with Myanmar Friday, met Suu Kyi in Yangon as the Nobel laureate and her party grapples with a dispute over a swearing-in oath that saw them delay their parliamentary debut this week.

“This is a process of change. I hope that we will see all the elements come into place to make it an irreversible process that can move forward,” Ashton said at a press conference when asked about the oath impasse.

“On that journey there will be many things that need to be done, many things that need to be worked out,” EU’s foreign policy chief added.

Myanmar, which languished for decades under a repressive junta, has seen a thawing in its relations with the international community as a result of reforms since a controversial 2010 election brought a civilian government to power — albeit one with close links to the military.

The European Union has responded to what it said were “historic changes” in Myanmar by suspending for one year a wide range of trade, economic and individual sanctions, although it left intact an arms embargo.

Ashton is also set to open a new EU office in Yangon that diplomats say will mostly oversee the management of aid programmes but also have a political role.

Speaking in Brunei on Friday at the end of a meeting of European and Southeast Asian foreign ministers and senior diplomats, Ashton said it would be a “first step” towards establishing a full delegation.

Ashton, who will hold talks with President Thein Sein in the capital Naypyidaw on Monday, told reporters that she would “welcome the way in which he is moving forward” and “urge him to do more” at the meeting.

The former army general has ushered through a broad range of changes since coming to power last year, including welcoming Suu Kyi’s party into the political mainstream and freeing political prisoners.

But in an early sign of tension with the regime, Suu Kyi and other members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party — who won seats in a historic April 1 by-election — declined to attend a new session of parliament on Monday.

The democracy icon on Saturday reiterated hopes of a swift resolution to the standoff over the NLD’s refusal to swear to “safeguard” an army-created constitution.

Asked if the army-backed ruling party would support a parliamentary vote to alter the oath, Suu Kyi said: “We have not yet got to the point so I think it would be a bit premature to discuss this matter.”

The political campaigner has shown increased confidence in the reformist government, calling for the EU sanctions suspension and planning her first international trip in 24 years, although she said on Saturday she had not yet received a passport to travel.

A steady stream of foreign dignitaries, including British Prime Minister David Cameron and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have visited Myanmar since the quasi-civilian government took power last year.

Canada also recently suspended most sanctions and Japan waived $3.7 billion of Myanmar’s debt.

But the United States on Wednesday ruled out an immediate end to its main sanctions on Myanmar, saying it wanted to preserve leverage to push the regime on an end to ethnic violence and other key issues.