UN urges `permanent` Thai-Cambodia ceasefire

The idea is to work in synergy with the regional efforts -- and right now regional efforts are in full force -- and resolve the situation peacefully and through effective dialogue
New York (ANTARA News/AFP) - The UN Security Council called Monday for a "permanent ceasefire" between Thailand and Cambodia after a border dispute erupted into deadly clashes last week around a Hindu temple.

Council president Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti of Brazil made the call after a closed door session with the foreign ministers of Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia, which has attempted to mediate the conflict.

"Members of the Security Council urge the parties to establish a permanent ceasefire and to implement it fully," she said.

Viotti said council members expressed "great concern" over the clashes and "called on the two sides to display maximum restraint and avoid any action that may aggravate the situation."

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong had gone into the meeting seeking a "permanent ceasefire" while Thailand, represented by Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, had insisted that the neighbors settle the dispute among themselves.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegwa, who has tried to mediate the dispute, also participated in the Security Council session.

Viotti said the council supported the Indonesian mediation efforts.

"The idea is to work in synergy with the regional efforts -- and right now regional efforts are in full force -- and resolve the situation peacefully and through effective dialogue," she said.

The two Southeast Asian neighbors blame each other for the crisis, which left at least 10 dead, including seven Cambodians, in clashes with heavy weapons last week.

They are fighting over a border area that surrounds the Preah Vihear temple, an 11th century cliff-top ruin that belongs to Cambodia but whose designation as a World Heritage site touched off the ire of Thai nationalists.

While Cambodia won support for a permanent ceasefire, the council did not endorse its request to deploy UN peacekeepers into the contested area.

The Cambodian foreign minister accused Thailand of using internationally outlawed bombs and munitions in the conflict.

"We deny all of that and we did not shoot first. It was a response," Kasit responded.

The Thai minister said there was no need for UN peacekeepers, and said that option had not been discussed in the Security Council session.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva renewed his call for Cambodia to resume bilateral dialogue on the issue in the wake of the UN meeting.

"When the international community thinks the problem should be solved through negotiation, Cambodia has no reason to refuse. They should return to the talks," he said in Bangkok.

"The UN Security Council`s reaction is likely to help ease tensions on the border. Thailand has no intention to invade or use force. We want negotiations to resume," he added.

Kasit said he had not met one-on-one with his Cambodian counterpart in New York, but that there would be an opportunity to do so during a meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers in Jakarta on February 22.(*)

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