Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
ASEAN has full support from the UN Security Council (UNSC) to mediate peace talks for a solution to the Thailand-Cambodia border dispute after a closed-door meeting between the disputing countries, ASEAN chair nation Indonesia and the UNSC in New York on Monday.
In addition to the UNSC’s endorsement, Thailand and Cambodia, both ASEAN members, also expressed their willingness to be mediated by ASEAN.
The AP reported from New York that Brazil’s UN Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, the UNSC president, said after the meeting that the UN stands ready to take further action if necessary but “right now regional efforts are in full force ... of course, we hope it will be peacefully settled by the parties with ASEAN mediation.”
Although still accusing Thailand of military aggression, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said the country welcomed ASEAN’s help as the two countries have been unable to resolve the border dispute since 2008.
Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya stressed in his speech to the council that “Thailand has neither the intention nor the desire to seize territory of a neighboring country” and was “committed to peace.”
Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, who represented Indonesia at the meeting, told The Jakarta Post in a telephone call from New York on Tuesday that the UNSC’s decision to let ASEAN create an atmosphere conducive to peace talks between the two parties proved that multilateral and regional efforts could go hand in hand to help bilateral talks resolve the conflict.
“ASEAN countries have approved a foreign minister’s meeting in Jakarta next Tuesday, although some of them may be absent due to other arrangements. But Cambodia and Thailand have committed to come,” he said.
Marty said the main objective of the meeting in Jakarta would be to encourage the two countries’ continued commitment to peaceful settlements of disputes and to renounce the use force and the threat of the use of force, as provided for in ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation and in its Charter.
“Secondly, ASEAN will support the efforts of the two parties to ensure respect of the cease-fire, while enhanced communications modalities may need to be contemplated and introduced,” he said.
Marty said the third objective of the Jakarta meeting was to ensure a climate conducive to resuming negotiations between the two sides.
“ASEAN may facilitate such talks and be informed by the parties concerned on the general outline of their progress,” he said.
Cambodia and Thailand have accused each other of igniting the latest clashes, which began Feb. 4 and continued through Feb. 7.
Fighting over a hilly patch of land in the remote countryside is rooted in a decades-old border dispute
that has fueled nationalist passions and been driven by domestic politics and conspiracy theories on both sides.
Cambodia requested the Security Council meeting, calling for UN peacekeepers or observers to prevent a renewed outbreak of violence, or at least conduct a fact-finding mission.
Thailand has repeatedly said it wants the dispute resolved bilaterally, without UN intervention.
The press statement by the Security Council “called on the two sides to display maximum restraint and avoid any action that may aggravate the situation.”
Members urged both countries to establish and fully implement a permanent cease-fire, “and resolve the situation peacefully and through effective dialogue”.