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MOSCOW, May 10. /TASS/. Russia has reached with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) a high degree of mutual understanding in regional policy and security affairs, the rector of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) of Russia’s Foreign Ministry, Anatoly Torkunov, told TASS in an interview.
"Two decades of our dialogue partnership is a time when processes of regional construction in East Asia have developed on the basis of the principle of ASEAN’s central role," Torkunov, who is a Russian Academy of Sciences academician and chairman of the Russia-ASEAN group of prominent figures, said shortly before the Russia-ASEAN summit, due in May.
"It is around that association that such multilateral interaction sites as the ASEAN Regional Forum on security (ARF), the East Asia Summit (EAS), the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) are built," he said.
"Within the framework of each of these formats, ASEAN poses as the coordinator defining the agenda, while Russia is a full-fledged participant of all above-mentioned forums, constantly supporting the association as their moderator," Torkunov said.
He said "that role was entrusted to ASEAN not accidentally."
"That group of countries is not expected to show its desire for hegemony, it is not in their rules to render upon someone information-psychological and, all the more, power pressure," Torkunov said.
"But ASEAN diplomacy will not be inferior to anyone in the art to seek and find a common language with different interlocutors, including those who do not always get along well," he said.
"It is possible to understand why partners interacting with ASEAN in East Asia, have seen the best candidate for the role of a fair broker in that organization," Torkunov said.
The MGIMO rector said "today it is important for us to put a reliable economic foundation under reciprocal political understanding with ASEAN."
"There is positive dynamics here: for 20 years, trade exchanges’ indices have consistently been changing for the better (except for the past two crisis years), and in the 2010-2014 period, they were growing especially fast," he said.
Torkunov also specified that "there is understanding that Russia, jointly with other participants of the Eurasian Economic Union, should move in relations with separate ASEAN countries, and later with the association on the whole, to free trade regimes."
"It has begun: a relevant agreement with Vietnam has been signed," the expert said.
The summit of Russia and the member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will be held in Sochi on May 19-20 and will become the biggest international event in Russia in 2016.
ASEAN comprises Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar with a total population of over 600 million people. The Association aims to develop cooperation in the economic, social, cultural and other spheres, and also strengthen peace and stability in Southeast Asia.
Russia has been a dialog partner of ASEAN since July 1996. In December 2005, the first Russia-ASEAN summit was held in Kuala Lumpur. The summit participants signed a declaration on cooperation and approved an action plan - in effect a roadmap of Russia-ASEAN interaction. Similar partnership summits are normally held on the territory of member-states and the choice of Sochi as venue for the Russia-ASEAN summit on the partnership’s 20th anniversary is symbolic.
The summit will be held under the slogan "Towards Strategic Partnership for the Sake of the Common Good."
The summit is expected to adopt a declaration that will lay the basis for an action plan of Russia-ASEAN cooperation in the political, economic and cultural spheres, as well as in the sphere of security.
The gross domestic product of ASEAN member-states stands at about $3.5 trillion today and is expected to reach $4 trillion by 2020. ASEAN is becoming an increasingly attractive area for foreign investments, which grew by 16% in 2014 to over $136 billion.