MOSCOW, May 18. /TASS/. Russia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) can still accomplish much from their partnership, Malaysian Ambassador to Moscow Hayati Binti Ismail told TASS on Wednesday.
The Malaysian ambassador made this statement in an interview with TASS on the eve of the Russia-ASEAN summit that will be held in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on May 19-20.
"I believe that ASEAN and Russia have made considerable progress in expanding their partnership over the past 20 years," she said.
"However, Malaysia is of the view that despite such progress, there is still much that both sides can accomplish from this relationship. As such, we believe that this upcoming Commemorative Summit will present a perfect opportunity for ASEAN and Russia to further strengthen this relationship," the ambassador noted.
The Malaysian diplomat said that "initially, ASEAN-Russia relations progressed at a very slow pace."
"It was only after the year 2000 onwards that ASEAN-Russia relations gradually made headway," Hayati Binti Ismail said.
As the Malaysian diplomat recalled, the first ASEAN-Russia summit was held in December 2005 in Kuala Lumpur and this event "provided the opportunity for both sides to further define the priority areas of their partnership and kick-start their cooperation on a broad range of issues, including in areas of political, economic and development cooperation."
The Joint Declaration on Progressive and Comprehensive Partnership and the Comprehensive Program of Action for 2005-2015 adopted at the summit formed the basis for cooperation between ASEAN and Russia throughout the last few years, the Malaysian ambassador said.
"It is without a doubt that this summit will prove yet another milestone for ASEAN-Russia relations, as it further allows both sides to chart their future direction especially with the adoption of the Joint Declaration entitled "Moving Towards a Strategic Partnership for Mutual Benefit" and a new Comprehensive Plan of Action," the ambassador said.
"This upcoming ASEAN-Russia Commemorative Summit is particularly important not just to ASEAN and Russia but also to Malaysia. Malaysia has always considered Russia as one of its important ASEAN dialog partners," the Malaysian diplomat said.
‘In fact, we are proud to say that Russia’s partnership with ASEAN formerly began in 1991 when the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia attended the Opening Session of the 24th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Kuala Lumpur as a guest of the Malaysian Government," the ambassador said.
Hayati Binti Ismail said she hoped that the Sochi summit "will further strengthen the existing relationship between ASEAN and Russia," especially with the adoption of the "the Joint Declaration of the ASEAN-Russia Commemorative Summit, the Comprehensive Plan of Action to Promote Cooperation between ASEAN and Russia (2016-2020) and the ASEAN-Russia Eminent Persons Group Report."
Malaysia hopes interaction with Russia will deepen within the framework of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Hayati Binti Ismail said. "Taking into account of the establishment of the ASEAN Community, it is envisaged that ASEAN will continue to deepen its economic integration. In this context, ASEAN hopes that Russia will try to capitalise the opportunities available in ASEAN further. Malaysia hopes that we can undertake several initiatives to promote closer economic engagement such as through the exchange of business visits, convening of business seminars, trade fairs and language courses. Such initiatives are surely steps in the right direction," the diplomat said.
Cooperation in energy sphere is one more promising area for interaction, the Ambassador said. "The ASEAN-Russia Energy Cooperation Work Programme 2010 - 2015 is a significant development, marking the willingness and readiness of ASEAN and Russia to deepen cooperation, especially on capacity building programmes, development of alternative and renewable energy resources, energy infrastructure, peaceful use of nuclear energy, coal, and oil and gas exploration," the diplomat said. "On this note, Malaysia is of the view that the convening of the upcoming ASEAN-Russia Business Forum during the Commemorative Summit will provide a good platform for our businessmen to interact and exchange views on possible areas of cooperation," she added.
"Russia is ASEAN’s 8th largest trading partner since 2011," Hayati Binti Ismail said. "Total trade between ASEAN and Russia stood at $22.5 billion in 2014. ASEAN’s exports to Russia accounted for $5.4 billion while imports from Russia were recorded at $17.1 billion," she added.
Cooperation is also taking place in "e-commerce, small and medium enterprises, science and technology, disaster management, people-to-people exchange as well as education," the Malaysian Ambassador said.
According to the diplomat, relations of Russia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have been most successful in the areas of political-security cooperation.
"Given the vast potential in ASEAN-Russia relations, Malaysia believes that the ASEAN-Russia Commemorative Summit will provide further impetus to the partnership," the ambassador said.
The promising areas include political-security cooperation in ASEAN-led mechanisms such as the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Regional Forum and the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus, she said.
The ambassador said the Association seeks cooperation with Russia in non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. "ASEAN hopes to continue to engage Russia, one of the five Nuclear Weapons States on securing support and recognition of the SEANFWZ Treaty by signing the Protocol to the treaty."
The Association expects "to further enhance ASEAN’s cooperation with Russia in combating terrorism." "Currently, ASEAN and Russia has been working to implement the ASEAN-Russian Federation Joint Declaration on Cooperation in Combating International Terrorism, which was signed at the ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference+1 Session with Russia in 2004."
"ASEAN and Russia adopted the ASEAN-Russia Work Plan on Countering Terrorism and Transnational Crime and has held regular dialogue at senior officials and expert levels," she said.
The Russia-ASEAN summit will be held in Sochi on May 19-20 and will become the biggest international event in Russia in 2016. 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.
Russia has been a dialog partner of ASEAN since July 1996. 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.