Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (Centre) (Source: VNA)
Sochi (VNA) – Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc delivered a speech at the Commemorative Summit marking the 20 th anniversary of the ASEAN-Russia dialogue partnership in Sochi, Russia on May 20, affirming Vietnam’s stance on reinforcing the ASEAN-Russia ties in a practical and effective manner. 

Reviewing major milestones in the bilateral ties over the past 20 years, the PM said both sides upgraded their relations to the comprehensive and progressive partnership in 2005, regularly conducted exchanges at all levels and worked together effectively in global matters of significance. 

Looking back on the past 10 years, two-way trade rose five-fold from nearly 4 billion USD in 2003 to more than 20 billion USD in 2015. 

The number of Russian tourists to ASEAN increased 20-fold from 140,000 in 2005 to nearly 2.5 million last year, while ASEAN arrivals to Russia also surged considerably. 

PM Phuc noted that the two sides now discuss ways to foster cooperation amid both advantages and challenges to their security and development, adding that uncertainties, conflicts, terrorism and war are still ongoing in parts of the world while the global community is facing threats from food security, climate change, disease outbreaks, natural disasters and non-traditional security challenges, including terrorism. 

This requires increasingly effective coordination both bilaterally and multilaterally for the common benefit, he said. 

PM Phuc emphasized that the Sochi Declaration marking the 20 th anniversary of ASEAN-Russia dialogue relations and the ASEAN-Russia Comprehensive Action Plan for 2016-2020, and other important documents adopted at the event will lay a crucial foundation and framework for practical and effective ties between ASEAN and Russia. 

The PM proposed that ASEAN and Russia pay attention to reinforcing political-security cooperation, especially in marine security and terrorism and transnational crime prevention. They should increase dialogues at all levels, including high-ranking dialogue, coordinate closely at ASEAN-led regional foreign and security mechanisms, build cooperation mechanisms, and implement appropriate measures, he said, adding that ASEAN hopes Russia supports the bloc’s central role in the region. 

PM Phuc went on to say that the two sides need to optimise their respective potential and advantages to foster a partnership in economics, trade and investment, energy, and tourism, along with the negotiation on a free trade agreement between Russia and ASEAN. 

They should also enhance cultural-social cooperation, particularly in education-training, science, technology, cultural and people-to-people exchanges. ASEAN and Russia should also bolster collaboration in responding to climate change, preventing natural disasters, and carrying out the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the agreement on climate change of the UN Climate Change Conference. 

PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc suggested Russia consider working with the ASEAN nations to organise a regular, possibly annual, economic-trade expo in the East European country. 

With regard to the East Sea issue, the Vietnamese leader said some sovereignty claims without basing on international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982 UNCLOS), have arisen recently. Notably, there have been deep concerns about unilateral large-scale constructions to transform entities in Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago into artificial islands, the installation of military or amphibious equipment on those entities and some others in Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago. 

The PM noted that Vietnam and other ASEAN countries consider peace and security in the East Sea critically important to peace and security in the region and the world. Hence, it is necessary to guarantee security, safety and freedom of navigation and aviation; not to use or threaten to use force; and not to conduct militarisation. 

The relevant parties must resolve the disputes by peaceful measures, respect diplomatic and legal processes in line with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS, fully and effectively comply with the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) signed by ASEAN and China in 2002, and push for a Code of Conduct (COC) in the waters, he added. 

“Vietnam shares the viewpoint that the countries directly involved have the responsibility to solve the disputes through dialogues, negotiations and other peaceful measures. The international community has interests in and the responsibility of supporting and contributing to maintaining peace, security and creating favourable conditions for the peaceful settlement of differences and disputes in the East Sea,” PM Phuc said. 

He emphasised that the current situation poses an urgent need that the relevant nations must exercise self-restraint, halt the above-mentioned unilateral actions, and not conduct militarisation. He called for promoting dialogues and negotiations to resolve the disputes and attain substantive results about the COC building, while respecting international diplomatic and legal processes and strengthening measures for building up trust and preventive diplomacy. 
“We highly appreciate Russia’s role and contribution to peace, security and cooperation in Southeast Asia over the past years and wish Russia - as a power, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and a strategic partner of ASEAN – will continue its active support for maintaining peace, security, safety and freedom navigation and aviation, and handling disputes in the East Sea on the basis of international law as well as regional agreements in line with the legitimate interests of countries in the region, as well as the international community,” PM Phuc said.

He expressed strong belief that the ASEAN-Russia ties have bright prospects due to a more solid foundation and stronger driving forces, which are the shared interests of peace, security, growth, goodwill and the enormous possibility for multifaceted support and assistance. 

The Vietnamese Government leader pledged that Vietnam is ready to make the most active contribution to efforts to lift the ASEAN-Russia relationship to a higher level.-VNA