Australia and Laos elevate bilateral relations at Southeast Asian summit

Southeast Asian summit

On the concluding day of the Southeast Asian summit in Melbourne, the leaders of Australia and Laos officially signed an agreement, further strengthening their bilateral relations. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Laos counterpart Sonexay Siphandone, who are co-chairing the special summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), marked the 50th anniversary of Australia’s role as the bloc’s first external partner.

The signed agreement signifies an elevation of the relationship to a comprehensive partnership, laying the groundwork for collaboration in defense, environmental initiatives, climate action, clean energy projects, agricultural endeavors, and educational partnerships.

As Laos, the least affluent nation within the bloc, assumes ASEAN’s rotating leadership from Indonesia this year, its overarching theme focuses on enhancing connectivity and resilience. Albanese emphasized that Wednesday’s discussions revolved around key themes such as trade, investment, climate change, clean energy, and maritime cooperation, all of which are expected to be reflected in the leaders’ communique scheduled for adoption later in the day.

The summit’s deliberations also addressed broader regional concerns, including China’s increasing assertiveness in the area and the ongoing violence and humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, an ASEAN member state. Myanmar’s lack of political representation at the meeting, due to its failure to curb violence since the military junta seized control in 2021, underscored the challenging situation in the country.

East Timorese Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão, attending the summit as Asia’s newest country following ASEAN’s agreement in principle, has urged the organization to take more substantial actions to restore peace and democracy in Myanmar. These critical issues have cast a shadow over the three-day summit, emphasizing the complex geopolitical landscape within the region.

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