ASEAN foreign ministers discuss COVID-19

Azlan Othman

The 53rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and related meetings opened yesterday via video link under the chair of Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh.

Discussions on COVID-19 are set to be one of the main agenda, together with the preparation for the 37th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits in November.

Minister of Foreign Affairs II Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Erywan bin Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Haji Mohd Yusof was present.

The opening ceremony of the AMM-53, which was streamed live on the ASEAN 2020 Vietnam Facebook page, took place in the Government Guest House at 8am (Vietnam time) yesterday, in Hanoi. Vietnam is the Chair of ASEAN 2020.

The event is held from September 9-12, during which 20 meetings will be organised within the framework of the event, including the China-Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, the 21st Asean Plus Three Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and the 27th Asean Regional Forum, said Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Quoc Dung at a press briefing.

About 40 documents are expected to be noted, issued and adopted.

Minister of Foreign Affairs II Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Erywan bin Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Haji Mohd Yusof with other ASEAN foreign ministers during the meeting. PHOTO: AFP

Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, in his opening remarks, said that the meeting is another testament that ASEAN is adapting itself to the new circumstances under COVID-19 and united in overcoming all adversities.

Meanwhile, Phuc proposed that the ASEAN COVID-19 Response Fund should be well utilised and the Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies should be operationalised, so as to raise ASEAN’s response capacity in its efforts to control COVID-19 and promote sustained recovery.

He said that ASEAN needs to promptly help its people and businesses restore production and return their life to normal in order to speed up economic recovery in the region.

He also touched on the need to capitalise on ASEAN centrality in advancing dialogue, cooperation and confidence-building in the region.

Phuc said that the 10-member regional body should continue upholding its solidarity and adhering to its more-than-five-decade path and ASEAN way, in line with the spirit of the Foreign Ministers’ Statement on the importance of maintaining peace and stability in Southeast Asia on August 8.

“Let us capitalise on the ASEAN values and identity, which bind our peoples together in a caring and sharing community, just like the sheaf of yellow paddy stalks on our ASEAN flag or the ASEAN song, which we should promote to become popular icons and the pride of the 650 million ASEAN people,” he said. All meetings will be hosted by Vietnam, in its role as ASEAN Chair for 2020.

Founded in 1967, ASEAN comprises 10 member countries – Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam.