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VLADIVOSTOK, January 28 (Itar-Tass) - The 21st session of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum (APPF) opens on Russkiy Island here on Monday. Valentina Matviyenko, Speaker of the Federation Council (FC) upper house of the Russian parliament, is the chairperson of the session which is expected to draw delegations of the parliaments of almost 30 countries in the region. The overall number of participants is expected to be more than 300.
Those present are to discuss matters concerning politics, security, economics, trade, and regional cooperation. There will be, in particular, a roundtable meeting on the theme of "Russia--Bridge Between Europe and Asia: Parliamentary Dimension", with representatives of international organizations participating. Within the framework of the forum, there will be presentations of large-scale investment projects.
Earlier, Matviyenko, during a meeting with Kang Chang-hee, Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea (ROK), suggested extending the forum's programme and holding a meeting of young parliamentarians, as well as including a South Korean representative in the list of members of the APPF Executive Commmittee for a four-year term "in accordance with the new rules of proceodure".
The Russian delegation will also come forward with an initiative aimed at establishing a regional interparliamentary organizaiton in the Asia-Pacific Region to tackle the problem of trafficking in narcotics from Afghanistan.
Rudik Iskuzhin, deputy chairman of the FC committee on defence and security, told journalists that such an organization under the APPF's authority would on a permanent basis deal with "matters concerning counteraction to the production of narcotics in Afghanistan and to their spread". "It is also important to harmonize the legislations of APPF countries in this respect", Iskuzhin pointed out.
Ilyas Umakhanov, FC Deputy Speaker and the coordinator of the Russian delegation to the APPF, also said that an attempt had been made to draw the lawmakers of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the ROK into a dialogue. "There was great temptation to arrange bilateral meetings between the parliamentarians of the DPRK and ROK on the sidelines of the forum," he said. "We started such work. The South Korean colleagues took the prospect with great enthusiasm. However, the North Korean partners are not ready for that so far".
The idea of establishing a parliamentary forum of the Asia-Pacific Region was suggested by Japan. The first preparatory meetings were held in Singapore in August 1991 and in Canberra in December 1991; there was a founding session in Tokyo from Janaury 14 to 15, 1993. Fifteem participating countries (Australia, Brunei in the status of observer, Indonesia, Canada, China, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, ROK, Singapore, the United States, Thailand, Micronesia, Philippines, and Japan) approved the Tokyo Declaration in which the APPF was officially defined as an interparliamentary organization. It was declared that the mai purposes of the Forum were to give greater scope to regional cooperation, support the liberalization of international trade and investments, and to step up interaction in the interests of strengthening regional peace and security.
APPF membership is open to all countries in the region which meet the procedural rules of the Forum. The list of its participants currenly includes 27 member-countries and one observer country. Apart from the founders, there are also Russia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Laos, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Peru, Fiji, Chile, and Ecuador.
The Russian Federation was admitted to the APPF in 1993. Delegations of Russia's Federal Assembly (parliament) have ben regularly participating in APPF sessions since 1995.