The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has urged Thailand and Cambodia to return to negotiations following cross-border fire exchanges that claimed casualties.

In a press statement, ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan on Feb. 7 expressed his deep concern about tension along the Thai-Cambodian border, saying that the conflict is undermining confidence in ASEAN and affecting economic recovery, tourism and investment prospect in the region.

He urged the two sides to keep the conflict under control and return to the negotiating table soon.

The ASEAN chief called on both countries to allow ASEAN to help them bring some form of a temporary truce for the interest of both peoples as well as ASEAN.

Surin said he had contacted Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong and Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piramya to discuss the situation and appeal for calm and maximum restraint on both sides.

Meanwhile, Ambassador to the UN Maria Luiza Ribertro Viotti of Brazil , which currently holds the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council, expressed deep concern about the situation along the Cambodia-Thailand border. She called for a ceasefire and urged both countries to resolve the situation peacefully.

Viotti said the UN Security Council supported mediation efforts undertaken by Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa of Indonesia , the chair country of ASEAN.

She said the UN body is willing to hold a Security Council meeting pending an assessment of ongoing regional mediation efforts.

The violent conflict started with gunfire and artillery exchanges on Feb. 4, near the long-disputed site of an ancient Hindu Temple , Preah Vihear. While the International Court of Justice decided in favour of Cambodia in 1962, the areas adjacent to the Temple remain under dispute./.