Amid a new low in ties with the West, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov embarks on a grand Asian tour, where he will be holding talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson against the background of new anti-Russia sanctions. Experts shed light on the trip.
Lavrov arrives in the Philippines on Sunday for two days of talks with his Asian colleagues and also with Rex Tillerson as part of the ASEAN forum in Manila.
During their meeting in Manila, already their fifth since February, Sergei Lavrov and Rex Tillerson are expected to discuss the crisis in Syria and closer Russian-US cooperation, as well as a raft of other hot-button issues, such as North Korea and possible US arms supplies to Ukraine.
In an interview with Sputnik, Leonid Polyakov, a political sciences expert at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, said that he expected a rather tense meeting between the two countries’ top diplomats as the new round of anti-Russian sanctions signed by President Trump is openingopens a new chapter in US-Russian relations.
Polyakov believes that even though there is no way to override the sanctions imposed on Russia by both houses of Congress, the two countries should still look for ways “to minimize the damage.”
“Judging from his earlier statements, I expect some positive steps on Tillerson’s part reflecting the Americans’ desire to somehow tamp down the negative impression from [the US sanctions law]. I believe that a new round of diplomatic efforts is needed to change this situation even though I think this won’t be easy,” Polyakov added.
On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump enacted a new batch of sanctions on North Korea, Iran, and Russia. The sanctions over Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election target the country’s defense and economic sectors and restrict dealings with Russian banks and energy companies.
The law also limits the US president’s ability to ease any sanctions on Russia by requiring Congress’s approval to lift any restrictions.
Russia and ASEAN to Build Up Ties
In the course of his Asian tour Sergei Lavrov will take part in the ministerial Russia-ASEAN meeting, the 7th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers Meeting (7th EAS FMM) and the 24th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).
During his meetings with his colleagues from ASEAN countries, held as part of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM), Sergei Lavrov will discuss a wide range of issues, including the regional security structure, terrorism, trans-border crime, closer trade and other economic cooperation, investments and closer ties between the Eurasian Economic Community (EAEC) and ASEAN.
The ministers will exchange opinions opinions on major international and regional issues, including the situation on the Korean peninsula, Syria and the Missile East.
ASEAN: Success Story
The participants will also discuss the implementation of joint ventures in energy, science, technology and agriculture.
The director of the Center for Southeast Asian, Australian and Oceanic Studies in Moscow, Dmitry Mosyakov, described ASEAN as the most successful integrationist association in Asia.
“It is an extremely influential international organization and the importance of Russia’s desire to build up ties with ASEAN nations as part of its pivot to the East is hard to exaggerate,” Mosyakov said.
He added that Russia, which now has a free —trade zone with Vietnam and is going to have one also with Singapore, is an important partner for Indonesia in terms of industrial development.
He also underscored the importance of ASEAN-wide cooperation against terrorism;, the expert said that this is a key element of regional stability.
“Many of the terrorist groups which were once active in Indonesia have since joined Daesh in the Middle East. However, they could return, that’s why it is so important for the Southeast Asian nations, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines to think how best to prevent this from happening and avoid destabilization in the region,” Dmitry Mosyakov emphasized.
From the Philippines, Sergei Lavov will head to Indonesia for talks with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi on a wide range of bilateral and international issues, such as countering terrorism and Indonesia’s accession to the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).
The talks are expected to end with the signing of a strategic partnership agreement.
Sergei Lavrov will wrap up his Southeast Asian tour with a visit to Thailand for meetings with the country’s Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai and and Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha on August 9-10.