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S'pore, Indonesia back Asean leaders' summit on Myanmar


SINGAPORE - The foreign ministers of Singapore and Indonesia on Thursday (March 25) backed convening a summit of Asean leaders on Myanmar, saying the region should reach a common standing on the crisis following the country's military coup.

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At a joint press conference after their hour-long meeting  in Jakarta, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said the leaders' summit would be held "in the near future".

"We share our concern on the current situation in Myanmar. We also share our position to call on the Myanmar military to stop the use of force and prevent further casualties. We also urge Myanmar to start a dialogue to put democracy, peace and stability back on track," she said.

Her Singaporean counterpart, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, expressed similar sentiments. "We are gravely concerned with the situation. We are distressed by the loss of human life by the use of lethal arms on unarmed civilians," he said.

The position taken by their two countries, he noted,  were "virtually identical".

Both countries, he said,  believed that national reconciliation needs to occur and "can only occur if both sides actually sit down in good faith, negotiate and find a solution that works for Myanmar for the long term".

He noted that the two neighbours recognised that there should be no foreign interference, but Asean stands ready to help.

"Therefore, we also support our leaders getting together to generate a common position in which Asean can express its support for Myanmar," he said.

Dr Balakrishnan's meeting with Ms Retno kicked off a two-day working visit to reaffirm the strong relations between their two countries.

In Facebook earlier on Thursday, Dr Balakrishnan posted a photo of traditional Indonesian snacks Ms Retno had left for him and the Singapore delegation at the hotel they are staying in as a "welcome surprise".

He also wrote that he will call on Indonesian President Joko Widodo "as well as other old friends" during the visit, adding: "Looking forward to seeing them in person."

According to a statement from Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on Wednesday, the visit is aimed at strengthening the close bilateral ties between the two countries as they recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr Balakrishnan is also holding separate engagements with Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investments Luhut Pandjaitan, Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto, Minister of Finance Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Minister of State-Owned Enterprises Erick Thohir, and Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy Sandiaga Uno, MFA said.

The Singapore minister will also meet Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan and other prominent Indonesian personalities, it added.

Dr Balakrishnan's visit to Indonesia comes after the Indonesian President proposed a high-level meeting of Asean leaders to discuss the situation in Myanmar following the Feb 1 military coup.

Mr Widodo, or Jokowi as he is better known, on March 19 urged that violence be halted and democracy, peace and stability be restored in Myanmar.

On March 2, Asean foreign ministers had attended a virtual meeting initiated by Ms Retno to discuss the crisis.

Before visiting Indonesia, Dr Balakrishnan had travelled to Brunei, the current Asean chair, and Malaysia.

In Brunei, he had an audience with Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and was hosted to lunch by his counterpart, Dato Erywan Pehin Yusof.

The ministers discussed Asean's role in regional cooperation under Brunei's chairmanship and agreed that the ongoing situation in Myanmar was of deep concern, and urged all sides in Myanmar to seek a peaceful solution through constructive dialogue.

They also discussed Asean's support for Myanmar's return to the path of national reconciliation, peace and stability, MFA had said.

In Malaysia, Dr Balakrishnan had an audience with the Malaysian King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, and called on Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and met other ministers.

Published : March 26, 2021

By : Arlina Arshad The Straits Times/ANN