BANGKOK (AP) — Leaders across Asia-Pacific have called for an end to Russia’s war on Ukraine and pledged to steer the region’s economies toward sustainable growth as they end the summit meetings on Saturday.
Host Thailand won a diplomatic coup by successfully bridging the rifts among the 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum by saying most members had condemned the war. Russia is a member of APEC, as is China, which has generally refrained from criticizing Moscow.
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The statement released by APEC leaders acknowledged the differing views on the war and said the forum, which is largely dedicated to promoting trade and closer economic ties, was not a place to resolve such conflicts.
But he noted that the conflict and other security issues “can have significant consequences for the global economy.”
The leaders’ statement said most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine, stressing that it is causing immense human suffering and worsening inflation, supply chain problems, food insecurity and risks. financial.
Like a statement issued by the Group of 20 Major Economies in Bali, Indonesia, earlier this week, it echoes language from a March 2 UN General Assembly resolution that “deplores in the strongest terms the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine and demands its complete and unconditional withdrawal from the territory of Ukraine”.
Saturday’s meetings this week capped a series of events in Southeast Asian countries that gave leaders opportunities for face-to-face talks that have been rare in the past two years of coronavirus precautions. pandemic.
Much of the activity at these summits takes place on the sidelines and in the interludes before and after formal meetings.
US Vice President Kamala Harris and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke briefly on Saturday before the start of the latest APEC meeting. Harris reiterated President Joe Biden’s call, made during a meeting with Xi at the G-20, for both sides to keep the lines of communication open.
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Xi said he viewed his talks with Biden as a step toward a “next step” in relations between the two biggest economies, according to a summary of the Chinese government meeting.
Relations have deteriorated recently due to friction over trade and technology, Chinese claims to the separately governed island of Taiwan, human rights and other issues. But Harris told Xi that the United States “is not looking for confrontation or conflict with China.”
She received a “passing” in the form of a symbolic “shalom” bamboo basket from APEC host, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. The United States will host the APEC summit next year in San Francisco, with preliminary meetings to be held in other cities throughout the year.
Although summit meetings are often diverted by other more pressing concerns, APEC’s long-term mission is to promote closer economic ties, and Prayuth opened Saturday’s meeting by urging leaders to move forward the APEC free trade agenda in the Pacific region.
“We must prioritize getting this plan off the ground,” he said.
Security risks are not on the official APEC agenda, but Prayuth said North Korea’s numerous recent missile launches have been discussed and “everyone shares their concerns about this.” topic”.
On Friday, Harris and the leaders of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea met separately to raise concerns about the North’s launch earlier in the day. an intercontinental ballistic missile that landed near Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido.
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Both at APEC in Thailand and at the G-20 meeting in Indonesia, officials appear to have chosen to agree to disagree on the war in Ukraine while expressing angst over its growing impact. Both in Bangkok and Bali, countries that refused to condemn the invasion refrained from blocking the publication of statements harshly critical of Moscow.
APEC members represent almost four out of ten people and almost half of world trade. Much of APEC’s work is technical and incremental, carried out by senior officials and ministers, covering areas such as trade, forestry, health, food, security, small and medium enterprises and the empowerment of women.
The leaders’ statement released on Saturday also called for promoting increased use of clean energy and more secure and environmentally sustainable food systems, among a series of goals that also address illegal, unregulated and unregulated fishing. authorized, illegal logging, marine litter, improvements in public health and better access to vaccines.
Other APEC members are Brunei, Chile, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was due to represent the Association of Southeast Asian Nations but did not attend after contracting COVID-19.
The summit venue, located in Bangkok’s main convention center near a sprawling park, was cordoned off and some streets were closed to traffic. Riot police stood guard behind barricades at major intersections to keep protesters away.
Police clashed in another part of Bangkok on Friday with protesters who used the APEC meeting to renew calls for democratic reforms in Thailand and accuse the government of promoting policies in APEC favoring big business over ordinary people. Several people were injured and several arrests were made.
Associated Press reporters Elaine Kurtenbach, Tian McLeod Ji, Grant Peck, Jerry Harmer and Tassanee Vejpongsa contributed to this report.