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ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Retreat Yields Key Commitments and Discussions on Regional Priorities

LUANG PRABANG: The ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Retreat, held in Luang Prabang in Laos saw significant discussions and support for the Lao priorities for its 2024 ASEAN Chairmanship. The theme for the chairmanship, "ASEAN: Enhancing Connectivity and Resilience," focuses on nine major priorities split under two main pillars: "Enhancing Connectivity" and "Enhancing Resilience". Cambodia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sok Chenda Sophea, attended the retreat and emphasized the importance of strengthening ASEAN Centrality amidst growing geopolitical competition.

Highlighting the ASEAN Community Vision 2045, the Ministers emphasized an inclusive and holistic approach involving all relevant stakeholders in developing strategic plans under Laos’ co-chairmanship with Malaysia. The aim is to adopt these plans as a package next year.

The Ministers also underscored the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific's role in strengthening ASEAN Centrality and unity in engagements across the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. They encouraged external partners to contribute to the implementation of the AOIP's four priority areas and welcomed interest from countries outside the region to accede to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia and establish formal partnerships with ASEAN.

During the Retreat, Cambodia’s Foreign Minister commended ASEAN's efforts in finalizing the Biennial Resolution on the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone, leading to its adoption by the United Nations General Assembly. He also acknowledged the positive progress in Timor-Leste's journey towards full ASEAN membership and reaffirmed Cambodia's commitment to assisting Timor-Leste in capacity building and participation in ASEAN meetings and activities.

On regional and international issues, the Foreign Minister highlighted the growing geopolitical and geoeconomic competition among great powers. He reiterated the importance of strengthening ASEAN Centrality and utilizing ASEAN mechanisms to build strategic trust and deepen cooperation with partners.

Regarding Myanmar, the Foreign Minister welcomed the appointment of Alounkeo Kittikhoun as the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair on Myanmar for 2024 and the Lao initiatives to facilitate the implementation of the Five-Point Consensus. He also welcomed the initiative by Thailand and Myanmar to scale up humanitarian assistance in the border areas.

Minister Sok Chenda Sophea held bilateral meetings with ministers from Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand to strengthen bilateral relations and exchange views on issues of common interest and concern.

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