Russia backs Asean plan on tackling Myanmar crisis

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi during a meeting in Jakarta on July 6, 2021.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi during a meeting in Jakarta on July 6, 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Russia strongly supports the South-east Asian diplomatic effort to end the crisis in Myanmar and has conveyed similar messages to the country's military leadership, its foreign minister said on Tuesday (July 6).

The Five Point Consensus agreed by the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) bloc in April should be the basis by which the situation can be resolved, Mr Sergei Lavrov said during a visit to Jakarta.  

"In our contacts with Myanmar leaders, military leaders, we promote the position of Asean which should be in our view, considered as a basis for resolving this crisis and bring the situation back to normalcy," Mr Lavrov said.

Mr Lavrov's comments are significant and come amid deepening engagement between Russia and Myanmar's military, as major global powers sanction its businesses and top leaders and call for a global ban on arms sales to the country.

Myanmar has been in crisis since the military ousted Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government on Feb 1, unleashing nationwide anger that quickly turned into protests and strikes brutally suppressed by security forces.

Fighting between the army and newly formed militias in several regions have displaced tens of thousands of people.

Despite junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing agreeing to the Asean peace plan, the military has shown no intent to follow through and has instead reiterated its own, entirely different plan to restore order and democracy.

The Asean effort calls for dialogue between all parties, the appointment of a special envoy, greater humanitarian access and an end to violence, but the bloc's most outspoken members, including Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, have been frustrated by the military's lack of action.

Though it has expressed concern about the violence in Myanmar, Russia, a key supplier of arms and training to its military, is among only a few countries that have recognised the junta and has sent top officials to the country to meet the generals.

Russia last month welcomed Gen Min Aung Hlaing and a military delegation for an extended visit to Moscow, during which he gave numerous speeches and media interviews and was bestowed an honorary professorship.

Mr Lavrov also discussed with Indonesia's foreign minister Retno Marsudi an agreement on health cooperation and possibility of jointly producing vaccines.

Mr Lavrov also held virtual talks with his Asean counterparts on Tuesday (July 6) during the visit to Jakarta.

Asean member states and Russia reaffirmed their commitment to further the Asean-Russia Strategic Partnership as they commemorate the 30th anniversary of Asean-Russia relations and the 25th anniversary of Asean-Russia Dialogue Relations this year.

Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan raised possible areas for future cooperation including supporting Asean's efforts to manage Covid-19, regional economic integration and the resumption of travel in a safe and calibrated manner, Singapore's  Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press statement on Tuesday.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan at the Special ASEAN-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on July 6, 2021. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS SINGAPORE

The Special Asean-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting exchanged views on the evolving regional architecture and developments in the region, and encouraged Russia to continue supporting the Five Point Consensus agreed to at the Asean Leaders’ Meeting in April.

Dr Balakrishnan called for Asean's external partners to further their engagement with Asean, support Asean Centrality and unity as well as an open, inclusive and rules-based multilateral world order, the statement said.

The meeting was co-chaired by Ms Retno, in her capacity as country coordinator for Asean-Russia Dialogue Relations and Mr Lavrov.