Saturday, 12 February 2011

Asean calls urgent border talks

via CAAI

All 10 FMs to discuss Thai-Cambodian rift

Published: 12/02/2011
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, the current Asean chair, has invited all Asean foreign ministers to an urgent meeting in Jakarta to discuss the Preah Vihear border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia.

The spirit of friendship: AnAnubarnDamrong Pitayakom School student, right, welcomes new friends from Ban Phum Srol School, which closed during recent border clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops. Both schools are in Kantharalak district of Si Sa Ket. Ban Phum Srol School students have been transferred to study at other schools for their safety. JETJARAS NA RANONG

Invitations for the meeting, set for Feb 22, were sent out yesterday.

The meeting reflects Mr Marty's belief that the United Nations Security Council will endorse efforts by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to assist Thailand and Cambodia in resolving their border dispute following fighting which erupted last weekend.

Officially, the ministers are invited to discuss "regional and international issues", but the purpose of the meeting is clear, senior Asean officials have confirmed.

As fighting broke out over the disputed border area between Thai and Cambodian troops last Friday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen sought an urgent Security Council meeting and called for a UN buffer force to be put in place.

Thailand has said the dispute should be resolved bilaterally.

Mr Marty met with Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong on Monday and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya on Tuesday.

At the meetings, he described Asean's role as one that supports bilateral efforts to resolve the conflict.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke with Hun Sen and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Tuesday and once again offered UN help in negotiating a peace deal.

Developments moved rapidly as the UNSC met on Monday night to discuss the Thai-Cambodian conflict, urging restraint on both sides and expressing the hope that a resolution could be reached via peaceful means.

But by Wednesday the Security Council had decided to discuss the conflict as an urgent matter and invited both Thai and Cambodian foreign ministers and Mr Marty to attend a meeting of the council on Monday .

The meeting is expected to be held behind closed doors.

Mr Marty was invited to attend Monday's UNSC meeting as chair of Asean.

He spent two years on the council before taking up the post of Indonesian foreign minister, diplomatic sources in New York said.

The sources added that it was suggested to Security Council president Maria Viotti of Brazil that the body would benefit in its deliberations from a briefing from Mr Marty, who is well-known at the UN for his diplomatic abilities.Mr Marty has also been in constant contact with Mr Ban Ki-moon and Mrs Viotti.

Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said in a statement released on Thursday that the Asean chair's attendance at the UN Security Council meeting on Monday represents "an evolution of Asean's efforts to resolve bilateral disputes among its member states as provided by the Asean Charter".

"This is particularly important as it will set the procedure for future Asean dispute settlement mechanisms," Mr Surin said.

In his letter to the Asean foreign ministers, Mr Marty said in order to take advantage of the stated desire of both Thailand and Cambodia for a quick and peaceful settlement, he is proposing a brief and informal meeting on Feb 22 in Jakarta to deliberate on "issues or regional and international concern", a diplomatic source in Jakarta said yesterday.

Mr Marty's letter added that Asean must take note of the fast-developing situation on the Thai-Cambodian border and be mindful of the quick pace of diplomatic activities at different but coordinated forums - an apparent reference to the UNSC, the source added.

By inviting the ministers to the Jakarta meeting, the source in Jakarta said this indicates that the UNSC - while spending time to listen to both Thailand's and Cambodia 's positions - have taken heed of Mr Marty's views that Asean is ready to play a role assisting in a resolution of the dispute.

Asean senior officials said that events this past week indicate that Thailand will have to make some quick diplomatic adjustments to its strategy of sticking to its position that the border dispute and conflict can be resolved bilaterally.

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