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Undue demands prevent ASEAN meeting from issuing joint communique: Cambodian FM

(Xinhua)

10:54, July 14, 2012

PHNOM PENH, July 13 (Xinhua) -- Southeast Asian foreign ministers failed to issue a customary joint communique Friday after their annual meeting here, as some claimants in the South China Sea disputes were "taking the communique as a hostage," said the conference's host.

In an unprecedented development, the 45th Foreign Ministers' Meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was not wrapped up with a statement showcasing common ground.

"I have informed the ministers from ASEAN nations that Cambodia feels regretful for not reaching consensus to release the Joint Communique, but this is the decision made by all attending countries," said Foreign Minister Hor Namhong of Cambodia, host of the regional conference.

Speaking at a press conference, he blamed the failure on some individual ASEAN members that were "taking the communique as a hostage and insisting on turning the 10-nation group to a tribunal."

Some countries wanted to use strong language in the to-be-released document over their South China Sea disputes with China, which cannot be accepted by Cambodia, said Hor, naming Vietnam and the Philippines.

"Cambodia is not a court. We cannot decide on territorial disputes, which should be resolved by involved countries through abiding international laws in peaceful manners," he added.

Meanwhile, Hor urged ASEAN members to lay aside disputes and focus on achievements, saying that, although without a joint communique, the meeting "reached many fruitful results."

In a similarly positive tone, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said: "ASEAN will move on even if no joint communique was released. We have to focus on what had been accomplished and work on for the future."

The meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers was part of a series of regional gatherings held in the Cambodian capital this week, which were also attended by top and senior diplomats of China, Japan, South Korea and the United States among others.

Touching upon the South China Sea disputes during the meetings, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi reiterated Beijing's stance of shelving differences and seeking joint development.

China, he said, is open to launching discussions on a code of conduct on the basis of full compliance with the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea by all parties.

It is "essential that all parties exercise self-restraint ... and refrain from taking moves that will escalate and complicate the disputes and affect peace and stability," he said.

China has also insisted that the South China Sea disputes are not between China and ASEAN or any other organizations, but between China and other individual claimants, and thus should be settled through nation-to-nation negotiations.

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