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40th Ministerial Meeting
July 28, 2007

New Sec-Gen, Charter high on agenda
ASEAN's foreign ministers begin their annual meeting in Manila on July 29 and one of the issues they will be examining is the appointment of a new Secretary General.

Current chief Ong Keng Yong's five-year term ends at the end of the year. A Singapore Foreign Ministry statement says the ministers will also discuss the draft ASEAN Charter, which is expected to be signed in Singapore at the end of the year.

To give greater momentum to regional community-building efforts, the ASEAN foreign ministers will meet separately with their counterparts of the ASEAN+3, as well as the East Asia Summit countries. The Plus 3 countries are China, Japan and South Korea.

The ASEAN Regional Forum ministers will also exchange views on developments in the region and discuss ways to move the Forum into practical areas of cooperation and preventive diplomacy.

The ASEAN Ministerial Meeting will be opened by Philippine President Gloria Arroyo.

ASEAN will move into a new phase once the Charter is signed, said Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo, who takes over the chairmanship of the grouping from the Philippines on August 2.

Minister Yeo pointed out that with the introduction of the Charter, there will be added challenges for the next Secretary General, who will come from Thailand, based on alphabetical rotation.

"Once the Charter is signed, we are into a new phase and it will have to be a larger Secretariat and it has to be a more effective Secretariat, it has got to be more meritocratic," Mr Yeo told Channel NewsAsia. "He (ASEAN Secretary-General) will have to preside over a transition, a different kind of ASEAN and for that reason, we need someone who is not a civil servant but a political leader."

"I am told that Thailand has put up Surin Pitsuwan, the former Foreign Minister, (as a candidate). He will be a very good candidate; he has the stature, he has diplomatic skills and understanding and most importantly, he will have the respect of ministers and leaders. So I am looking forward to working with Kun Surin for the next phase of ASEAN," said Mr Yeo.

Turning to Singaporean Ong Keng Yong, who has headed the 10-member grouping for the last five years, Minister Yeo said he has done an outstanding job.

"He has tried to attend as many meetings as possible. I think he is on the road all the time. He has got boundless energy and sometimes I wonder how he is able to keep his poise and patience. I think we are very proud that a Singaporean Secretary General has acquitted, discharged his responsibility at a critical moment of ASEAN's history very well," said Mr Yeo.

During the ASEAN Ministers' Meeting, the foreign ministers will also have discussions with their dialogue partners and sign a Joint Declaration with Australia. – CNA

Click here ( to find out the schedule of the 40th AMM.

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