• Tuesday, Mar 02, 2021
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Asean ministers vow to cooperate on Rohingya issue

  • Published at 09:40 pm January 17th, 2020
Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) from L-R: Malaysia's Saifuddin Abdullah, Myanmar's Union Minister for International Cooperation Kyaw Tin, Philippines' Teodoro Locsin, Singapore's Vivian Balakrishnan, Thailand's Don Pramudwinai, Vietnam's Pham Binh Minh, Brunei's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Erywan bin Mohd Yusof, Cambodia's Prak Sokhonn, Indonesia's Retno Marsudi, Laos' Saleumxay Kommasith and ASEAN Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi pose for a group photo during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Retreat in Nha Trang on January 17, 2020 AFP

We welcomed the invitation by the US President to convene a Special Summit to commemorate the 5th Anniversary of Asean-US Strategic Partnership this year and would report to the Leaders for final decision

Southeast Asian foreign ministers ended talks in Vietnam on Friday with pledges to continue cooperating on key issues, including facilitating the repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar and reducing South China Sea tensions, reports Kyodo News.

A statement issued after the two-day informal meeting by Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh said that besides those issues, the ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) also considered plans for a special summit with the US President Donald Trump.

"We welcomed the invitation by the US President to convene a Special Summit to commemorate the 5th Anniversary of Asean-US Strategic Partnership this year and would report to the Leaders for final decision," it says.

The US government has proposed the event be held in mid-March in Las Vegas, according to diplomatic sources, but no date or venue was mentioned in an Asean chairman's press statement.

Trump extended the invitation after he skipped Asean-related summits held last November in Bangkok, disappointing Asean leaders with his absence from the region's most important annual event for a second straight year.

Friday's statement says Asean leaders look forward to his participation in this year Asean-related summits, which include the 18-nation East Asia Summit, to be held next November in Hanoi.

On the Rohingya issue, the foreign ministers "reaffirmed the need for Asean to be more visible and to play an enhanced role in supporting Myanmar through providing humanitarian assistance, facilitating the repatriation process, and promoting sustainable development in Rakhine State."

More than 740,000 Rohingya Muslims, a persecuted ethnic minority group in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, have fled from the country's westernmost state to neighbouring Bangladesh since August 2017 to escape a brutal military crackdown.

Regarding the South China Sea disputes involving several Asean members and China, the statement said: "Concerns were expressed on the land reclamations, recent developments and serious incidents, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region."

It says the ministers stressed the importance of upholding international law and the need to promote an environment conducive to ongoing negotiations toward a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

China, which claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, has installed military facilities on artificial islands created on disputed features.

The foreign ministers also discussed the Asean Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, unveiled in June last year, which aims to ensure that Asean plays a "central and strategic role" in the evolving regional architecture.

Views were also exchanged on the situation in the Korean Peninsula and tensions in the Middle East.

The "Asean Foreign Ministers' Retreat," held on a small island just off the coast of the resort city of Nha Trang, marked the first Asean ministerial meeting to be hosted by Vietnam since taking over the rotational chairmanship of the 10-member body from Thailand.

Asean groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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