The Jakarta Post
Indonesia highlighted the importance of multilateralism, saying the global fight against COVID-19 should be seized as an opportunity to strengthen collaboration among countries, particularly between the ASEAN countries and Russia.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi led a virtual ASEAN-Russia meeting on Wednesday as Southeast Asia’s largest economy served as the country coordinator for the partnership. In the meeting, ASEAN foreign ministers met with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.
Retno said all countries the world over, including ASEAN countries and Russia, were facing similar challenges to contain the pandemic as well as cope with the social and economic impacts.
“The pandemic must be a moment to strengthen cooperation between ASEAN and Russia,” she said in a press briefing after the meeting.
Indonesia raised the issue of eroding trust among nations amid the global battle against COVID-19. Indonesia, she said, stressed the need for all parties to set aside differences.
“Indonesia wants to see multilateralism work in a more effective way – multilateralism that puts forward collective interests and prevents the mighty from taking all,” Retno said.
She went on to emphasize that it was an ASEAN urgency to see the region as a peaceful and prosperous place and that Indonesia believed that goal could be achieved with multilateralism by manifesting the visions of, for instance, the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.
“Indonesia hopes that the ASEAN-Russia partnership can support the reinforcement of the Outlook,” Retno said.
Indonesia proposed several areas for future cooperation between ASEAN and Russia, including on vaccine and medicine development.
“Indonesia also invited Russia to be the main actor in improving regional public health governance through, for instance, the establishment of a regional mechanism for communicable disease prevention, a regional reserve of medical supplies and capacity-building for military medicine,” the minister added.
Lastly, Indonesia proposed collaboration to embark on economic recovery after the pandemic, in which ASEAN and the Eurasian Economic Commission could join hands.
“The impact of the pandemic, the economic slowdown, must be faced with collaboration, not isolation,” Retno said.
Wednesday’s meeting marked the third time for ASEAN to hold a special meeting with its dialogue partners during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first meeting with China was held in February, and the second meeting was held in April with the United States.
The two counterparts issued a joint statement that mainly contains points to strengthen ASEAN-Russian ties to cushion the pandemic.
“The points of cooperation will be reflected in the current programs and in the ASEAN-Russia Comprehensive Plan of Action for the years 2021 – 2025,” Retno concluded.