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Cambodia invites Russian foreign minister to ASEAN meetings

Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn holds a press conference after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) session of ASEAN foreign ministers' retreat in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Feb. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith, File)

PHNOM PENH (Kyodo) -- Cambodia has invited Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to annual ASEAN-related meetings slated for early August, with the decision likely to cause concern among the international community which has been split in its response to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

    Speaking at a briefing to the foreign diplomatic corps on Wednesday, Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn said he asked the Russian minister to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum and other related meetings.

    Cambodia, this year's ASEAN chair, has also invited Myanmar to the meetings although only as a "non-political representative," according to Prak Sokhonn, who recently made a trip to the Southeast Asian country where a military junta ousted the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in 2021.

    Cambodia will host a foreign ministerial meeting of the 10-member association as part of the ARF -- one of the few security dialogue frameworks in which North Korea participates and which includes countries such as China, Japan the United States -- as well as other related meetings in Phnom Penh for four days from Aug. 3.

    Since the invasion began in late February, Russia's participation in international meetings has been a subject of discussion, especially for host nations that are wary of some countries boycotting their multilateral gatherings.

    Prak Sokhonn, who is also Cambodia's deputy prime minister, said as of Wednesday Russia has made no official confirmation of the foreign minister's participation.

    A government source, however, told Kyodo News that Lavrov is "very highly likely" to attend.

    Myanmar has also been the center of discussion, with none of its top officials recently invited to any ASEAN-related meetings.

    ASEAN leaders agreed on the so-called five-point consensus last April that calls for an immediate end to violence in Myanmar. The nation has been shut out of the bloc's meetings until substantial progress is made on the deal.

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