Speaking in Jakarta yesterday at the Post Ministerial Conference of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov praised the organization for providing a forum in which to discuss lingering disputes in Asia and said that Russia had adopted guidelines for cooperation with states in the region. Those guidelines, he said, include the ensuring of reliable security on Russia’s Far East borders and the creation of favorable conditions for economic reforms in Russia and economic development in the Far East. On the latter point, Primakov pointed to a recently approved federal program for Siberian and Far Eastern economic and social development, and said that Moscow intended to encourage ties between those parts of Russia and the Asian Pacific community. Primakov, who has often underscored Moscow’s intention to raise its diplomatic profile around the world, added that Russia considers relations with ASEAN to be one of its diplomatic priorities in Asia. (Itar-Tass, Reuter, UPI, July 24)
Primakov’s remarks came as ASEAN formally welcomed Russia, along with China and India, into the forum for the first time as a full dialogue partner. The meeting with the dialogue partners, which began yesterday and was to continue today, follows the annual ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting, which took place over the weekend, and the July 23 ASEAN Regional Forum security conference. The formal meetings in Jakarta afforded Primakov and other world leaders the additional opportunity to conduct separate bilateral talks, one result of which was the July 23 announcement that Russia and the U.S. had managed a break-through of sorts on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. (See Monitor, July 24)
But an announcement by Primakov yesterday that Russia supports the creation of a nuclear-free zone in Southeast Asia was probably less welcome in Washington, which has refused to support the zone on the grounds that it inhibits freedom of the seas. (Itar-Tass, July 24) U.S. secretary of state Warren Christopher also appeared to have little luck on July 23 in impressing upon Moscow Washington’s displeasure over renewed Russian military actions in Chechnya. U.S. admonitions were brushed aside by Primakov, who blamed the current violence on Chechen military commanders and said that Moscow would continue to defend against "encroachments and attacks" by Chechen guerrillas. (The Washington Post, July 24)
Chechnya: Fighting in Bamut, Fallout in Strasbourg.