All sides in Myanmar have begun engaging in talks with ASEAN's special envoy over dealing with the Southeast Asian country's political crisis more than two years after the country's military junta orchestrated a coup and seized power, ASEAN's chair said Saturday.
After wrapping up the Southeast Asian foreign ministers' annual retreat talks, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told reporters that Indonesia has proposed an implementation plan based on the so-called five-point consensus, agreed upon at a special ASEAN summit in April 2021 that was attended by Myanmar junta leader Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlain.
"Broad support has been given by all member states for this plan," Retno said, calling the proposal a key step toward "addressing the situation in Myanmar in a united manner."
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has said they want to engage with all stakeholders in Myanmar, including the junta and the country's democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, to seek a political solution. The junta, however, has so far denied access to ASEAN's special envoy, preventing them from meeting other relevant stakeholders.
Sidharto Suryodipuro, director general for ASEAN cooperation under Retno's office, separately said engagement has "already started with all stakeholders" on Myanmar, and that other ASEAN members "are united behind Indonesia."
A statement issued afterward by Retno said that the foreign ministers of ASEAN member states jointly "urge that significant progress be made in the implementation of the five-point consensus to pave the way for an inclusive national dialogue in Myanmar," as doing so will be "key to finding a peaceful resolution to the situation in Myanmar."
The ministers themselves, however, failed to reach an agreement over issuing a joint statement on the second anniversary of the coup.
An ASEAN diplomatic source told Kyodo News that the foreign ministers of member states have been divided on whether to include the name of Suu Kyi, currently detained by the military regime, in the envisioned stand-alone statement.
Myanmar, one of the 10 ASEAN members, boycotted the gathering after the regional group stuck to its decision reached two years ago to allow only a nonpolitical representative from the country.
The exclusion of the junta's leader and junta-appointed ministers from ASEAN meetings is part of the regional body's attempt to coax them into implementing a series of steps agreed upon shortly after they seized power, to find a peaceful solution to the political crisis.
But few, if any, of the steps laid out in the five-point consensus have been implemented so far. One step calls for dialogue between all relevant parties including Suu Kyi, after her democratically elected government was toppled by the military.
The retreat is part of a two-day ministerial meeting taking place through Saturday.
On Wednesday's coup anniversary, Myanmar's ruling military extended "state of emergency" measures, implemented by the junta after taking power, for another six months, signaling it has no desire to relinquish power anytime soon.
Extending the state of emergency measures enables the junta to postpone a general election previously scheduled for August 2023 until February the following year.
During the retreat, the ministers, according to Retno, also discussed a proposed "code of conduct" agreement in the South China Sea currently being drawn up by ASEAN and China to help avert confrontation in the region, with further negotiations -- the first to take place under Indonesia's chairmanship -- slated for March.
"The commitment of members to conclude the code of conduct negotiations as soon as possible is clear, bearing in mind the need to have a substantive, effective and actionable agreement," she said.
Some ASEAN member states have been locked in disputes with China over territory in the South China Sea for several years since Beijing began rapidly building artificial islands with military infrastructure in the region, home to some of the world's busiest sea lanes, claiming sovereignty over almost the entire maritime area.
On East Timor's accession, Sidharto said a road map is being deliberated by a working group on East Timor involving steps that must be taken by the country to facilitate its full participation in ASEAN's affairs.
The road map is expected to be ratified during the ASEAN Summit in November. Currently, East Timor is an ASEAN observer state after its admission for membership was accepted in principle by ASEAN member states last year.
ASEAN consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
(Sepsha Dewi Restiananingsih contributed to this story from Jakarta)
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