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Foreign Ministers Meeting
July 19, 2007

Charter, integration high on agenda
Asean foreign ministers meeting in Manila on July 29 will focus their attention on two big continuing tasks: the Charter, the group’s integration and review of ties with dialogue partners to enhance the regional architecture, Channel News Asia reported. 

A complete draft of the 10-member grouping's Charter will be presented to the foreign ministers when the annual meeting kicks off on July 29.

"We have been making good progress, but there will still be some issues for us to resolve. So I am looking forward to it and I am confident that by the end of the year, the leaders will be able to sign the document which is reasonably forward looking and constructive," the news agency quoted Singapore's Foreign Minister George Yeo as saying in an interview.

Mr Yeo also stressed that the Asean Charter is not being created to tackle the problem of Myanmar.

"If situations arise which cause problems for the rest of Asean, then we'll find ways to resolve them. But I don't think we want to have specific provisions in order to tackle the problem of Myanmar. That's not the objective," he said.

Also expected to gain prominence at the upcoming meeting and future meetings is the ongoing debate on climate change while an important feature of the annual Asean Ministerial Meetings is the discussions which the foreign ministers have with their dialogue partners. But this time round, US Secretary of State Condolezza Rice will not be travelling to Manila.

Mr Yeo said her reasons are understandable. "She called me up the other night to inform me, because we are the incoming (ASEAN) Chair. I fully understand her position," he said.

"The US now has a central task and that is to make sure that the situation in the Middle East doesn't get out of control. They cannot afford to pull out of Iraq in a chaotic way, and Congress is in a fretful mood, so it is absolutely important that she concentrates on that issue.

"Of course, it is a disappointment to us for her not to come, but we understand and I told her, 'what you do in the Middle East is of great importance not only to you but to us as well', and we wish her well."

As for the commemorative summit to celebrate 30 years of ties between Asean and the US, Minister Yeo said the grouping is reconsidering the date and venue. CNA

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