05/01/2012 11:38 GMT | Updated 05/01/2012 13:48 GMT

Aung Sang Suu Kyi Facebooks William Hague After Historic Handshake

William Hague and Burma (Myanmar) opposition leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi have made history by shaking hands - marking the arrival of the first British Foreign Secretary to visit the troubled country for more than 50 years.

Aung Sang Suu Kyi even used Facebook to record the remarkable moment.

"Britain and British politicians have provided us with invaluable support over the last 23 years.

"Foreign Secretary William Hague's visit will enable him to assess the present situation in Burma. It will also give me an opportunity to get to know better a man I have long regarded as a good friend of our country," she wrote on the social network.

The move is symbolic of the country's return to the international fold following years of hardline military rule.

Earlier, Hague said Britain stands ready to "respond positively" to improvements in human rights and political freedoms in Burma, Foreign Secretary William Hague told the south-east Asian country's leaders during a historic visit today.

He follows in the footsteps of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who visited the country last month

Hague met President Thein Sein, who unexpectedly embarked on a series of liberalising measures after coming to office last year, including opening talks with the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, releasing more than 200 political prisoners, and legalising trade unions.

Mr Hague used their talks in capital Naypyidaw to urge the president to continue reforms, free political prisoners and hold "credible" elections.

"I emphasised the importance the British Government attaches to the reforms that the Burmese Government has undertaken in the last six months, and my sincere hope that there will be further progress in the weeks and months ahead," said Mr Hague.

"I made clear that the British Government expects to see the release of all political prisoners, credible by-elections in April, and a genuine alleviation of the suffering in ethnic areas, including through humanitarian access and peace talks."

Aung Sang Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has now re-registered as a political party and will contest a series of 48 parliamentary by-elections due to take place on 1 April, in what is being seen as an important test of the reform process.

But critics of the Burmese regime caution that significant numbers of political prisoners - variously estimated to number between 590 and 1,700 - remain behind bars, despite government promises to free them, while reports of abuses against ethnic minorities continue.

Britain is pushing for a process of national reconciliation to end the fighting between the government and the country's ethnic minorities, such as the Kachins, and to bring them into the mainstream political process.