Vatican, Myanmar establish relations as Suu Kyi visits

The Vatican and Myanmar have agreed to establish diplomatic relations.

The announcement came Thursday, on the same day that Pope Francis met with Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, the country's top civilian leader.

Myanmar's government is facing international criticism for its activities in the western state of Rakhine, where troops are accused of carrying out widespread abuses against the Muslim ethnic Rohingya minority in what the government says is a counter-insurgency operation.

Francis has appealed for prayers for the Rohingya, who face official and social discrimination in the Buddhist-majority country. In February, he denounced how they had been "tortured and killed, simply because they are continuing their traditions, their Muslim faith."

The Vatican said the decision to establish diplomatic relations would "promote bonds of mutual friendship."