Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Since Russia became a full-fledged Dialogue Partner of ASEAN in 1996, the interaction between ASEAN and Russia has progressed significantly.

The solid legal foundation of the partnership has been laid. Russia was one of the first non-ASEAN countries to accede to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia.

It actively participates in ASEAN-led multilateral mechanisms, such as the East Asia Summit (EAS), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus Dialogue Partners (ADMM-Plus), Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF), ASEANAPOL, and ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA).

Russia and ASEAN held three regular Summits (2005, 2010, and 2018) and one Commemorative Summit on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of Dialogue Partnership (2016 in Sochi, Russia).

The Sochi Declaration of 2016 set forth a goal of ASEAN-Russia Strategic Partnership.

In 2018, the Leaders of ASEAN and Russia officially elevated the dialogue to a strategic level.

In addition, ASEAN and Russia have very close or identical approaches to major global and regional issues.

There are no political disputes or differences between them or between Russia and each member state that can impede, even potentially, with the progress in their cooperation.

Ambassador of the Russian Federation to ASEAN, Alexander A. Ivanov, remarked that ASEAN and Russia share the view that the national security cannot be ensured at the expense of others.

ASEAN and Russia, the ambassador noted, support the central role of the UN, uphold multilateralism and multipolar international order, as well as promote peaceful settlements of disputes.

The ASEAN-Russia Dialogue Partnership is based on mutual respect and benefit, equality, non-interference in domestic affairs, as well as shared responsibility to promote peace, stability, security, prosperity, sustainable development, and social progress in the Asia-Pacific region, he noted.

With regard to political and security cooperation, Russia firmly supports ASEAN centrality and unity.

ASEAN on its part welcomes the growing involvement of Russia in the affairs of the multipolar Asia Pacific region as well as Russia`s constructive and active role in multilateral ASEAN-led mechanisms on security and cooperation, such as EAS, ARF, and ADMM-Plus.

The attention is focused on the main security threats and challenges, such as international terrorism, security of and in the use of ICTs, transnational crimes, and others, the ambassador remarked.

"Efficient network of cooperation mechanisms has also been established," he added.

The ambassador stated that Russia is the main proponent of the dialogue on the Regional Security Architecture within and in support of EAS. Such meetings were organized in Jakarta in November 2017 and May 2018, respectively.

In addition, ASEAN and Russia closely cooperate in fighting terrorism and transnational crimes, including countering the threat of foreign terrorist-fighters and returnees, financing of terrorism, preventing drug trafficking through ASEAN Plus Russia SOM on Transnational Crime, and Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime.

Russia contributes to the capacity building of ASEAN law enforcement agencies. ASEAN-Russia Work Plan on Countering Terrorism and Transnational Crime was adopted, he noted.

The ambassador stated that Russia sponsored the EAS Leaders` Statement on Countering Ideological Challenges of Terrorism and Terrorist Narratives and Propaganda (2017).

ASEAN and Russia also adopted a Ministerial Statement on Joint Efforts to Counter International Terrorism (2017). On the basis of ASEAN priorities, Russia initiated the EAS Leaders` Statement on Countering Threat of Foreign Terrorists-Fighters and Returnees (2018), the ambassador remarked.

Russia, together with Indonesia, co-chairs the ARF Inter-Session Meeting on Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime in Inter-session year 2018-2019.

ASEAN and Russia established coordination mechanism on drug-related matters in 2017. The 2nd ASEAN Senior Officials on Drug Matters-Russia Coordination Meeting was held in August 2018 in Brunei Darussalam.

Meanwhile, the ambassador revealed that ASEAN-Russia cooperation on ICTs Security is an important direction of cooperation.

"Statement on Cooperation in the Field of Security of and in the Use of Information and Communication Technologies was adopted at the 3rd ASEAN-Russia Summit in Singapore in November 2018," he remarked.

Russia and ASEAN are exploring establishment of a regular "ASEAN-Russia Dialogue on ICT security-related issues", he added.

Russia, together with Malaysia and Australia, led the priority area "Security of and in the Use of ICTs` within the ARF framework in 2015-2017.

The three countries played an essential role in developing ARF Work Plan on Security of and in the Use of ICTs.

Russia put forward the proposal to establish (in conjunction with the ARF Inter-session Meeting on Security of and in the Use of ICTs) an Open-Ended Study Group on Confidence-Building Measures to Reduce the Risk of Conflict Stemming from the Use of ICTs that was adopted at the 24th ARF in August 2017.

In addition, the ambassador revealed that Russia supports ASEAN`s decision to strengthen ties with regional organizations, including Shanghai Cooperation Organization (ASEAN Chairman Statement at the ASEAN Summit 2017) and building block and network diplomacy approaches.

ASEAN and Russia have also developed their inter-parliamentary cooperation. In early September 2018, the Russian Parliamentary delegation has participated in the 39th ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) General Assembly in Singapore.

Economic Cooperation

ASEAN and Russia dialogue in economic sphere has progressed through annual AEM-Russia Consultations and SEOM-Russia Consultations.

In 2017, ASEAN and Russia endorsed the Revised ASEAN-Russia Trade and Investment Cooperation Roadmap and the Post-2017 ASEAN-Russia Trade and Investment Work Programme.

The 7th AEM-Russia Consultations held in Singapore in September 2018 welcomed the recovery in trade flows between ASEAN and Russia in 2017 and noted the 40 percent increase in the total merchandise trade over 2016.

The ministers were optimistic that the success of the implementation of the Post-2017 Work Programme for the first year will provide good momentum for the future, further contributing to the enhancement of ASEAN and Russia trade and economic relations.

During the Russia-ASEAN Summit held in Singapore, Russian President Vladimir Putin invited representatives of ASEAN member states to attend St. Petersburg International Economic Forum and the Eastern Economic Forum in Russia in 2019.

Putin called the participation of the Russian delegation in the ASEAN investment forum in Singapore "useful" and recalled that the ASEAN countries` businessmen regularly come to Russia.

The Russian leader noted that he was satisfied by Russia`s cooperation with ASEAN.

Russia pays great attention to developing relations with ASEAN based on mutual respect and taking into account each other`s interests, he added.

The president recalled that in 2016, documents were adopted with the goal of "bringing Russia-ASEAN cooperation to the level of strategic partnership."

Furthermore, Ivanov remarked that the cooperation between ASEAN, its member states, and Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) have significantly advanced.

After the establishment of EAEU-Vietnam Free Trade Zone (FTZ) in 2016, their total trade has increased by around 40 percent.

Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, and Indonesia have also expressed their interest in creating Free Trade Zone with EAEU.

In May 2016, the Singapore Government and the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on economic integration and elimination of trade barriers.

Subsequently, in October 2016, they signed a Declaration on creating a working group to research the feasibility of the free trade agreement (FTA).

In summer 2017, the official negotiations on FTA were launched, while three rounds of discussions had already taken place.

Cambodia and Thailand also signed the MOU with EEC to intensify trade and economic cooperation.

The MOU between the EEC and ASEAN on Economic Cooperation was signed on the sidelines of the ASEAN-Russia Summit in November 2018.

Russia and ASEAN are looking forward to organize a workshop on "Regional Economic Integration in the EAEU and ASEAN."

In addition, ASEAN and Russia continued to encourage business-to-business ties to promote direct business contacts and exchange of information on trade and investment opportunities, including through activities of the Russia-ASEAN Business Council and regular business missions.

"The 3rd Russian Business Mission to ASEAN Member States (Indonesia, Brunei, and Vietnam) was organized in April 2016, followed by the 4th Mission to the Philippines in March 2017. Russia held the ASEAN-Russia Business Dialogues during the Eastern Economic Forum in September 2017 and in Vladivostok in 2018," he explained.

Meanwhile, ASEAN-Russia cooperation in tourism continues to be promoted through regular consultation among relevant sectors.

Visitor arrivals from Russia to ASEAN, which stood at about 1.8 million in 2016 (a significant increase by 20 percent compared to the 2015 figures), are expected to grow further as ASEAN and Russia seek to strengthen closer partnership, the ambassador elaborated.

Russia organized the Advanced Russian Language Training for ASEAN Tour Operators in 2017.

In enhancing the ASEAN-Russia Dialogue Partnership, a Special Meeting was held in March 2018 in Siem Reap to discuss future cooperation activities on tourism. Russia also consistently participates in the ASEAN Tourism Forum.

ASEAN and Russia have also been working on encouraging and promoting cooperation in science, technology and innovation.

The ASEAN-Russia Federation Plan of Action on Science, Technology and Innovation (ARPASTI) 2016-2025 was adopted in October 2017.

"Regular biennial meeting of the ASEAN-Russia Working Group on Science and Technology (ARWGST) continues, with their 8th Meeting held in Myanmar to discuss the appraisal of five ASEAN-Russia cooperation project proposals," the ambassador pointed out.
Editing by Bustanuddin

Reporter: Azis Kurmala
Editor: Fardah Assegaf
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