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Ukrainian foreign minister inks ASEAN treaty at summit

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King Norodom Sihamoni (sixth left) receives ASEAN leaders at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh on November 10, a day ahead of the dual ASEAN summits, as Ukraine signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC). SPM

Ukrainian foreign minister inks ASEAN treaty at summit

Ukraine officially signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) with ASEAN, while Myanmar was left without full representation at the ASEAN Summit and related meetings this year as it has not fulfilled its commitment to the bloc’s five-point consensus (5PC).

Instruments of Accession to the TAC for Ukraine were signed on November 10 between Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn and the other foreign ministers from ASEAN member countries. The signing ceremony was also witnessed by ASEAN Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi.

“Today, ASEAN Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi and I met in Phnom Penh to strengthen cooperation between Ukraine and Southeast Asia in areas of trade, food security and digital transformation. Developing strong ties with ASEAN is an important part of Ukraine’s Asia strategy,” Kuleba tweeted after the signing.

Eight of the nine other ASEAN leaders have arrived in Phnom Penh and have been granted royal audiences with King Norodom Sihamoni at the Royal Palace on November 10. Myanmar leaders were not invited to the summit.

“Only nine of ASEAN’s leaders will attend the ASEAN Summit hosted by Cambodia. Myanmar’s political leadership has not been invited because they have not fully implemented the 5PC,” said Prime Minister Hun Sen in a social media post.

Several meetings related to the ASEAN Summit have already kicked off on November 10, while the main summit will be held on November 12 followed by bilateral and multilateral meetings between ASEAN and other countries.

On November 10, the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) began meeting, with National Assembly president Heng Samrin leading a high-level delegation to attend face-to-face meetings between ASEAN and AIPA. Kung Phoak, secretary of state at the foreign ministry who is serving as the ASEAN Summit spokesman, said the bloc envisioned several challenges that may arise but was confident that the ASEAN delegations and their partners would work together to facilitate progress and ensure the meetings are productive.

Phoak said in a morning press briefing that when Cambodia assumed the chairmanship of ASEAN, there were already several challenges facing the region and the world, and that these included the Myanmar crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic, which were both compounded by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has caused further uncertainty.

“Fortunately, ASEAN has a long-sighted vision and is prepared to respond to these challenges. What is most important is that we cooperate to push our collective agenda and ensure that we move forward in areas we have identified as priorities,” he said, adding that the current crises are in addition to other more longstanding issues including climate change, the nuclear threat on the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea dispute.

“In short, Cambodia, as chair of ASEAN, has worked closely with each of the bloc’s member nations to respond to these concerns,” he added, noting that ASEAN had issued a number of statements condemning Russia’s invasion and annexation of Ukrainian regions and calling for a peaceful end to the conflict.

According to Phoak, 29 countries and international institutions will participate in the summit.

“Our invitation to the top leaders as well as the leaders of international institutions was welcomed, but not everyone could attend as there are other summits in the region and elsewhere ongoing. Following the ASEAN Summit is the G20 Summit and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit. So leaders usually have to budget their time to attend any meetings abroad, because in general they cannot stay away from their country for too long,” Phoak said.

Taking place concurrently with this year’s ASEAN Summit is the UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Egypt, which has also drawn a great deal of international interest.

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, told The Post that there are several issues to be raised at the summits. Tensions in the Taiwan Strait as well as the war in Ukraine and the situation on the Korean Peninsula are all heated topics.

“All of these issues have far-reaching consequences for the region and the world in connection with the food and energy crises and the catastrophic inflation taking place in almost every country around the globe. The issue of pollution and the environment is also a hot topic to discuss,” he said.

Phea said the presence of the world’s top leaders at the ASEAN Summit is very important for the bloc, especially for Cambodia, as it shows the Kingdom’s ability to coordinate the presence of key world leaders while boosting the Kingdom’s image and offering potential new roles to play in regional and global affairs.

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