Foreign ministers from Asean, key partners to meet in Jakarta this week

For the first time, the Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting will be attended by Timor-Leste, which in 2022 was granted observer status in the bloc.

Arlina Arshad and Hariz Baharudin

Arlina Arshad and Hariz Baharudin

The Straits Times


Asean centrality refers to the regional grouping being in the driver’s seat and shaping key decisions affecting South-east Asia. PHOTO: ST FILE

July 11, 2023

JAKARTA – Asean’s foreign ministers and their counterparts from China, Russia, the United States and other key partners will meet in Indonesia’s capital city for a series of annual meetings starting on Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan will attend the Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and its related meetings, Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a statement on Monday.

“The 56th AMM will review Asean’s Community Building efforts and reaffirm Asean centrality and unity amid the evolving regional architecture,” said the ministry.

Asean centrality is a concept that refers to the regional grouping being in the driver’s seat and shaping key decisions affecting South-east Asia, instead of having the region’s fortunes determined by external parties.

“The ministers will also discuss Asean’s post-pandemic recovery and economic integration, as well as progress in building the foundation for long-term growth and development under Indonesia’s chairmanship theme, Asean Matters: Epicentrum of Growth,” MFA added.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi also underlined the importance of strengthening Asean’s solidity and unity so that it can continue to play a central role in maintaining peace and stability in the region amid the “current world situation that is full of high rivalries”.

“The war in Ukraine is still going on today. This situation has had a huge impact on post-Covid-19 economic recovery efforts. This situation also has an impact on the atmosphere of discussion in all forums, multilateral and international,” she said during a media briefing in Jakarta on Friday.

Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry (Kemlu) said 29 countries, as well as the Asean Secretariat and the European Union, will attend this week’s meetings. So far, 1,165 delegates and 493 journalists have registered their attendance.

A joint communique agreed upon by all Asean members is traditionally released after the AMM, the grouping’s 56th since it was formed in Bangkok in 1967.

For the first time, the AMM will be attended by Timor-Leste, which in 2022 was granted observer status in the bloc.

Besides economic cooperation and Asean’s collective responses to regional and global challenges, another likely key focus of the talks will be the situation in Myanmar. The Asean member’s military launched a coup against its democratically elected government in February 2021, and the country has been in turmoil since then.

Asean drew up a five-point peace plan with the military two months later, but there has been little progress in quelling the post-coup violence that has killed thousands.

The plan called for a dialogue among all parties, an immediate halt to violence in Myanmar, the appointment of an Asean special envoy to facilitate mediation, humanitarian assistance and a visit by an Asean delegation to Myanmar to meet all concerned parties.

Indonesia, as Asean chair in 2023, has vowed to do its best to improve the situation in Myanmar. The archipelago said it has conducted 110 inclusive and intensive engagements with various parties there, including with the junta – which calls itself the State Administration Council – the opposition National Unity Government and others.

On Myanmar, Ms Retno said the political crisis triggered by the military coup has been going on for more than two years and warned that “as long as the approach taken by the parties is… zero-sum, then durable peace will not occur”.

Indonesia is now encouraging stakeholders in Myanmar to build an inclusive national dialogue as a follow-up to the engagements.

When Asean leaders last gathered from May 10 to 11 for the 42nd Asean Summit in the Indonesian fishing town of Labuan Bajo, they collectively stressed the peace plan for Myanmar.

The foreign minister appointed by Myanmar’s ruling State Administration Council will not be invited to 2023’s AMM, in line with Asean’s status quo, where the country can be represented only by a non-political representative until there is progress in implementing the consensus.

Asean foreign ministers will also meet their counterparts from 11 key dialogue partners this week – Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea, the EU, Britain and the US.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are all expected to be in Jakarta.

The Asean ministers will also attend three large-group meetings:

.the Asean Plus Three Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with their counterparts from China, Japan and South Korea;

.the East Asia Summit (EAS) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, which includes Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the US;

‘and the Asean Regional Forum with all EAS members, Canada and the European Union, plus Bangladesh, Mongolia, North Korea, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste.

At these large-group meetings, MFA said Dr Balakrishnan will exchange views with his counterparts on regional and international developments and discuss ways to enhance regional peace and stability.

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