ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF)
MFA Spokesman Andrei Nesterenko Interview with RIA Novosti on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s Upcoming Attendance at a Russia-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and the 16th ASEAN Regional Forum Session
Question: The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, will be taking part in annual ASEAN events – a Russia-ASEAN ministerial meeting and the 16th ASEAN Regional Forum session – in Phuket, Thailand from July 22-23. What questions will be discussed there?
Answer: The agenda of the Russia-ASEAN ministerial meeting on July 22 envisions discussing a broad spectrum of matters related to developing the Russia-ASEAN Dialogue Partnership, primarily building up its economic component, as well as topical international and regional problems.
The meeting will focus mainly on conducting the second Russia-ASEAN summit very soon (the first having been held in Kuala Lumpur in December 2005). In particular, the parties will presumably agree on the launch of a preparatory process with emphasis on the development of substantial content for the new summit.
As part of the Russia-ASEAN ministerial meeting, a Memorandum on the Establishment of an ASEAN Center in MGIMO University is expected to be signed. The Center is conceived as a research and educational entity whose activity will be aimed at reinvigorating scientific ties between Russia's colleges, universities and research centers and those of the ASEAN member states, as well as raising public awareness of the state of and prospects for the Russia-ASEAN partnership.
As regards the 16th ARF session, which will take place on July 23, its participants are due to assess the past year's forum activities and to exchange views on topical issues of the international and regional agenda. Everything indicates that special attention will be paid to the situation on the Korean Peninsula. The session will end with the adoption of a Statement by the ARF Chairman.
Question: What are the main thrust areas for Russian-ASEAN cooperation at present?
Answer: The priority areas of cooperation between Russia and ASEAN are energy, science and technology, emergency response, tourism and joint counteraction against new challenges and threats. The sides are currently engaged in working through the questions of fostering collaboration in these areas, including with the participation of such Russian companies as Gazprom, Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation, and Inter RAO UES. The ministers will exchange views on the development prospects of mutually advantageous cooperation in these fields.
Question: What practical steps have been taken recently and are planned to be taken to expand our partnership with ASEAN?
Answer: Of key significance for the reinvigoration of Russian-ASEAN trade, economic and investment cooperation is the rhythmic functioning of the working mechanisms of the dialogue partnership. The early holding of a Senior Officials Meeting on economic issues and a session of the Russia-ASEAN Working Group on Trade and Economic Cooperation is acquiring special urgency in this respect.
Project activities are an important practical contribution to dialogue partnership development. 2007 saw the creation of the Russia-ASEAN Dialogue Partnership Financial Fund (DPFF). A total of 1 million dollars have been transferred in two tranches to the Fund's account over the last two years. This money goes on carrying out joint projects in growth areas. A part of the projects are already realized (the expert seminars on renewable energy sources and on the development of new generation vaccines).
A new package of project proposals is currently being created in such fields as renewable energy, the peaceful atom, science and technology, small and medium-sized business. Another 750,000-dollar contribution by the Government of the Russian Federation to the DPFF will aid the further successful development of project activities.
One of the key spheres of Russia-ASEAN cooperation is combating terrorism. On July 3 this year the first meeting of the Russia-ASEAN Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime took place in Naypyidaw, Myanmar; a Plan of Engagement in this field was adopted. Through this mechanism, cooperation is expected to be forged between competent agencies of Russia and the ASEAN countries in the antiterrorism and anti-crime spheres.
From international themes views will presumably be exchanged on problems relating to the creation of a new security and cooperation architecture in the AP region, on issues in the development of a multilateral network diplomacy in the region and on the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
Question: What tasks are set before the session of the ASEAN Regional Forum?
Answer: The chief outcome of the session is to be the adoption of an ARF Vision Statement – a conceptual document that will set out the fundamental approaches of the forum participants to the issues of peace and security in the AP region and will reiterate their commitment to strengthen the ARF as one of the pillars of an emerging regional security architecture.
The ministers must endorse the final reports of the ARF working mechanisms – intersessional meetings on confidence building measures and preventive diplomacy, on disaster relief, on counter-terrorism and transnational crime, on maritime safety and on nonproliferation and disarmament – and to approve the work plans of the ARF for the period ahead.
Among the most topical subjects with regard for the dynamics of the evolution of the situation in the AP region, a question of creating a regional security architecture will be discussed. Russia champions setting up a transparent and equal security system in the region without dividing lines that should be predicated on collective elements and the norms and principles of international law and on consideration of the lawful interests of all states of the region.
The ARF has before it the task of shifting from confidence building measures to preventive diplomacy. In this context Russia suggests focusing on the reinforcement of the legal bases of regional security, including with the use of – naturally allowing for regional specifics – our ideas and suggestions on the elements of a European Security Treaty which President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev has come up with the initiative to conclude.
The terrorist danger remains one of the chief security threats in the AP region. In 2010 Russia will chair the ARF Intersessional Meeting on Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime. Brunei has offered to co-chair the meeting from ASEAN. It is proposed to make international information security and critical infrastructure protection the event's chief topic.
An essential intellectual mainstay in the ARF's work is the activity of its "second track" – the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific (CSCAP). Russia intends to step up its participation in the work of this regional "laboratory of ideas." On June 11, a founding meeting of a reconstituted Russian National Committee for the CSCAP took place. A leading Russian political scientist, Vyacheslav Nikonov, president of the Unity for Russia Foundation, has headed it up.
According to tradition, an ARF Defense Officials' Dialogue will be held on the session's eve.
Russia regards the ARF as a key platform for security dialogue in the AP region and aims to participate vigorously in the forum's activities.
July 20, 2009