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Foreign ministers to meet on anti-haze push
Publication Date : 14-08-2013
Foreign ministers from Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia met on August 14 in Hua Hin, the resort town of Thailand, to give some impetus to measures to curb the transboundary haze which severely affected the three countries this year.
The meeting takes place on the sidelines of an Asean foreign ministers' retreat, at which they will discuss a post-2015 "vision" for Asean, and ways to enhance the regional group's relationship with China, ahead of an Asean-China summit in Brunei in October.
A key challenge at the trilateral meeting on the haze will be to refine the Asean Haze Monitoring System (AHMS), a concept that emerged from a meeting of Asean environment ministers in Kuala Lumpur last month.
But this will require the release by the Indonesian government of industry concession maps which can be compared with satellite images of hot spots to identify offending concession owners. Indonesia is reluctant to publicly release concession maps, but could share them on a government-to-government basis, said an official.
"The challenge is to maintain the focus on the issue, even if the haze temporarily abates," the official said. "But it should be in a constructive way."
During the retreat, the foreign ministers will also discuss how to advance the Asean-China Strategic Partnership. This includes enhancing an Asean-China free trade agreement, and setting up a financial mechanism for infrastructure projects to boost "connectivity".
"It is to take stock and flesh out the future direction of the partnership" said Sihasak Phuangketkeow, Permanent Secretary at Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Asean countries need to find a way to prevent the South China Sea territorial issues from impeding other aspects of the broad and complex relationship with China, officials said.