ASEAN defense chiefs call for end to Myanmar crisis and Israel-Hamas war – World ReadingS


JAKARTA: Southeast Asian defense ministers called for an end to the Myanmar crisis and the Israel-Hamas war as they met on Wednesday for talks that will include talks with their regional counterparts and the Pentagon chief.

The meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Jakarta were marked by a variety of issues, from the Myanmar crisis to the conflict between Israel and Hamas and Beijing’s growing assertion in the disputed South China Sea.

Joko Widodo, president of Muslim-majority Indonesia, this week called on U.S. President Joe Biden to help broker a ceasefire in Gaza.

Defense minister Prabowo Subianto reiterated that call and opened talks on Wednesday, saying he was “deeply saddened” by the events in the Palestinian territories, where Israel launched a relentless offensive to destroy Hamas in response to the October 7 attacks.

Malaysian Defense Minister Mohammed Hassan also called for a ceasefire, saying Kuala Lumpur condemned “all forms of terrorism” and the killing of civilians.

“Further loss of life, suffering and destruction must be stopped and parties must show maximum restraint and de-escalate tensions,” he said.

An estimated 1,200 people, mostly civilians, died in Hamas’ attacks on Israel on October 7, and an estimated 240 people were taken hostage in Gaza.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said that 11,320 people, mostly civilians, including thousands of children, died in Israel’s subsequent aerial bombardment and ground attacks.

Indonesia’s draft presidential declaration seen AFP“ASEAN calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities and calls on both sides to respect the sanctity of life and property,” he said in the document, which is not a negotiated text and reflects Jakarta’s opinion only.

A Southeast Asian diplomat told AFP that the draft text was still being worked on before publication.

In a joint statement, ASEAN defense chiefs also called on all parties in Myanmar, where fighting has been ongoing for weeks in northern Shan state, to “cease all violence and exercise maximum restraint”.

Junta leaders have been barred from attending high-level meetings of the 10-member bloc for failing to implement the five-point peace plan agreed upon following the 2021 coup.

In the joint statement, he reiterated the bloc’s call on the junta rulers in Myanmar to implement this plan.

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was meeting ASEAN defense chiefs on Wednesday ahead of broader talks a day later on a region where Washington and Beijing are jockeying for influence.

Representatives from the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and Russia will attend Thursday’s expanded talks.

The Jakarta talks come ahead of the highly anticipated meeting between Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in San Francisco on Wednesday, the first between the leaders of the world’s two largest economies in a year.

The Pentagon did not confirm whether Austin would meet Beijing’s representative at the Jakarta talks. He will meet Subianto for bilateral talks on Thursday.

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