24 July 200816:12

Statement by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov at the Plenary Meeting of the 15th Session of the ASEAN Regional Forum, Singapore, July 24, 2008

1092-24-07-2008

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Esteemed Mr. Chairman,

Esteemed colleagues,

At the outset, I would like to thank our hosts, Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo and his staff, for the excellent organization of the joint work. The present meeting is, without exaggeration, significant. Fifteen years ago the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) was founded which has firmly established itself as an authoritative mechanism for regional dialogue on the issues of bolstering security and stability in the AP region. It gives us the possibility to substantively and frankly discuss any, including quite delicate, problems facing the regional and world community and to coordinate the approaches of member countries toward their settlement.

At the same time the ARF continues to look for its worthy place in the system of international relations. And it cannot be otherwise at a time when the entire world is in the process of working out adequate answers to the challenges and threats of our time. We are convinced that to solve such an enormous task is only possible by uniting efforts on the basis of the universal principles of ensuring security, capable of becoming a reliable guarantee of peace and prosperity. And the package of documents that has been submitted today for approval convincingly attests to the ability of the ARF to keep pace with the times.

Essentially, we have to define the ways for the further evolution of the Forum. In this connection I would like to note the Overview of the ARF Process conceptual paper prepared at the initiative of Singapore's Chairmanship. It contains an objective analysis of what has been achieved without attempts to embellish reality or pass over unsolved problems.

We completely support the initiative to draft an ARF 2020 Vision. To prepare it toward our meeting in 2009 in Bangkok, energetic efforts by all member states will be needed.

Esteemed colleagues,

We regard the present situation in the AP region as generally stable and predictable. Yet it cannot but worry us that a good deal of fuel still exists for conflicts in the region, along with major risks and threats to security and sustainable development. Among them: the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the region. Together with the partners we actively facilitate settling the Korean Peninsula nuclear problem, and welcome the positive shifts in this process. At the same time questions persist on Iran's nuclear plans. Finding acceptable solutions for all the parties and resolving the differences conclusively will obviously take a great deal of further politico-diplomatic effort. But, there is no other way to solve the Iranian nuclear problem.

We positively assess the proposal to launch within the ARF a new permanent mechanism of Inter-sessional Meetings on Nonproliferation and Disarmament. This will be not only a useful contribution to strengthening the nonproliferation regime in the AP region, but also a vivid demonstration of the viability of our Forum and of its orientation towards solving the urgent tasks facing the region and the world as a whole.

The international community is unanimous in the view that terrorism has no justifications. But political declarations alone are not enough. Large-scale practical work is needed to eradicate terrorism, including the removal of the causes of its spread. Yet the continuing internal political instability in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the lack of progress, and occasional rollbacks in the Middle East peace process feed the terrorist threat. Therefore, additional coordinated efforts of the international community are required to fight this evil. Full use should also be made of the antiterrorist potential of the ARF and of the antiterrorist tools developed by it. That's why it is so important to raise the effectiveness of cooperation in this format and to impart a systemic character to it, among other reasons.

Reiterating our commitment to further increase the effectiveness of the fight against the new challenges and threats, I would like to propose the candidacy of Russia as a co-chair of the ARF Inter-sessional Meeting on Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime in 2010. I am certain that in cooperation with the ASEAN colleagues we will be able to ensure that it produces tangible results.

We think that the initiative to prepare a Work Plan on Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime merits endorsement. Its realization will help concentrate on accomplishing the chief tasks. We are ready to actively participate in this work. We suggest that the document should also encompass the questions of ensuring the security of energy infrastructure, pipelines in particular. We regard this area of cooperation as one of the future priorities of the Inter-sessional Meeting on Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime. In addition, that decision will be along the lines of the realization of the provisions of the ARF Statement on Strengthening Transport Security against International Terrorism, adopted in July 2004 in Jakarta at the initiative of Russia and the Philippines.

We actively cooperate on a bilateral basis with many states of the region on natural and man-made disaster relief. In particular, after the recent tragic events in Myanmar claiming about 150000 lives, we urgently sent two Emercom planes carrying 80 tons of humanitarian cargo. Russia is considering the possibility of providing additional aid in the form of mineral fertilizers, and diesel fuel for rehabilitation in hurricane-stricken areas. We welcome ARF efforts to develop collective emergency response mechanisms.

Among the new challenges and threats the problem of ensuring food security now makes itself more and more insistently felt. The acute situation in the world market and the continuing growth of food prices lead to a reduction of people's living standards and become a source of social and political instability. I believe there is a need to include this theme in the ARF agenda. What steps and in what format to take is a subject for discussion at expert level. We presume that Thailand, having declared food security themes as one of the priorities of its upcoming chairmanship of ASEAN and ARF, will come up with concrete proposals.

I think there is common understanding that security in the AP region must be integral and indivisible, resulting from collective efforts by all members of the regional community. This precludes formation of any "alternative" structures and "narrow" formats whatsoever, oriented toward a Cold War type of closed military-political cooperation. Russia's position is invariable: any activity for creating new international and regional associations and mechanisms should reinforce the strategic balance, take into account the lawful security interests of partners and rest on the generally recognized norms and principles of international law.

That's the approach we take in promoting at six-party talks on the Korean Peninsula nuclear problem a sub-regional initiative to create a mechanism of ensuring peace and security in Northeast Asia which fits in with the relevant ARF efforts.

We are convinced that a future system of true and equal security in the region must be transparent and based on an optimal combination of bilateral and multilateral diplomacy. This will help us avoid the appearance of new regional lines and hotspots of confrontation here. The activities of the ARF open the way for building a sustainable security architecture in the AP region. For our part, we will continue facilitating this in every way.

July 24, 2008

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