Russia catches diplomatic wave in Bali

Autralia's Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd (C) gestures next to his Russian counterpart Sergey Victorovikh Lavrov (2nd L) prior to their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Ministerial Meeting in Nusa Dua on July 22, 2011 (AFP Photo / Adek Berry)
With the Russia-ASEAN ministerial meeting in full swing, Moscow is reaching out to the governments of Southeast Asia in a bid to strengthen economic, cultural and political ties.

­Intensive interaction in the realm of the economy, energy, science and technology, and regional security is on the agenda of the Russia-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting that opened on Bali Island on Friday. 

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov heads the Russian delegation.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a geopolitical and economic organization comprised of ten countries located in Southeast Asia – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

In addition to working toward the advancement of economic, social and cultural development, the member states are also dedicated to peace and stability in the region, as well as providing a valuable forum where member countries may discuss their differences peacefully.

"This year's meeting marks the 15th anniversary of the partnership dialogue, established in 1996," the Russian Foreign Ministry noted in a statement. "We have come a long way during this period: the relationship was raised to the highest level."

"The intensity of contacts between the respective agencies of Russia and ASEAN structures has grown," the ministry stressed. “A 'roadmap' of trade-economic and investment cooperation is being developed, and the working program of energy cooperation for 2010-2015 is being successfully implemented."

To achieve this end, Russia and its ASEAN partners will create a joint center for enhancing energy efficiency, Lavrov said.

"The launch of a Russia-ASEAN center for enhancing energy efficiency, as well as the use of renewable energy sources and environmentally friendly know-how, will be an important method of promoting the energy dialog,” Lavrov told a Russia-ASEAN ministerial meeting on
Friday. “The Mezhregionsoyuzenergo Company will make a multi-million investment in the formation of this center not far from Moscow," the foreign minister noted.

Meanwhile, Russia has agreed to increase its annual contribution to the Dialogue Partnership Financial Fund to 1.5 million US dollars, which will be used to fund joint projects, the diplomatic mission added.

In addition to the Russia-ASEAN meeting, the Russian side will for the first time be recognized as a full-fledged member at the ministerial meeting of the East Asian Summits, which Russia – together with the United States – officially joined in October 2010.

Russia envisions many newfound opportunities emerging from its affiliation with the ASEAN nations, including the economic development of Siberia and the Far East.

"The involvement in the integration processes unfolding in the region will help attract this association's potential to a more efficient use of the opportunities of cooperation with China, the United States, India, Japan, Korea, ASEAN member states in the interest of Russia's economic development, socio-economic development of Siberia and the Far East," the Russian Foreign Ministry noted.

On the security front, summit discussions will focus heavily on North Korea’s nuclear weapon program, which has been a major source of friction in the region. In November, tensions flared as Pyongyang opened fire on an island belonging to South Korea. Now, Russia says that the internationally isolated communist country is ready to return to the negotiating table.

"We welcomed Pyongyang's confirmed position to restart the six-party talks without preconditions.  Our North Korean colleagues thanked the Russian side for the efforts made in keeping lines of communication open with the other parties in the six-nation talks, including those with the Republic of  Korea and the United States, in order the create the necessary conditions," Lavrov told reporters after a meeting with North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun on the sidelines of ASEAN events.

The six-way talks include Russia, China, the United States, Japan and both Koreas. The negotiation process broke down in 2009, when Pyongyang walked out to protest the United Nations for slapping the country with a new round of sanctions.

North Korea agreed in 2005 to abandon the development of nuclear technology in return for aid, but that deal collapsed and Pyongyang went on to conduct two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

Given these diplomatic developments, it is understandable why Moscow wants to become a more active partner in the ASEAN region.

"The potential of Russia-ASEAN dialog makes it possible to set truly large-scale goals. The ASEAN nations are planning to form an economic community by 2015. Russia is energetically advancing along the path of modernization and wants to actively join the integration processes in Asia and the Pacific," Lavrov said.

Finally, the ministers will be preparing for their next summit, which will be held on November 17-19. There, ASEAN ministers plan to agree on the draft final document entitled, the Declaration on Principles of Relations between the EAS countries.

Robert Bridge, RT