Asian-African Conference preparations complete, big issues ready to be tackled

Asian-African Conference preparations complete, big issues ready to be tackled

The commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Asian-African Conference (AAC) is expected to produce several historical documents, including a declaration of support for the formation of a sovereign Palestinian state, a senior diplomat has said.

Purnomo Chandra, head of Indonesia's permanent mission to the United Nations, said that the declaration of support for Palestine, though non-binding, was an idea conceived early on in discussions about the conference's substance in New York.

Purnomo said Palestinian representatives to the UN had underscored the country's readiness to be a sovereign nation.

"For the Palestinian declaration, we've involved the Palestinian mission in New York from the very beginning [of discussions]," he said during a press briefing in Central Jakarta on Thursday. "They [Palestine] want to reaffirm themselves as a sovereign nation that can be held accountable anywhere."

He said that Indonesia had insisted on having Palestine recognised as a fully sovereign state as soon as possible. "We must not forget that there are countries in Asia and Africa that are more developed, so we have to underline how important it is to share their knowledge with less developed countries. We can provide effective and timely assistance to the people of Palestine," he said.

Purnomo, however, also acknowledged that there were efforts to downplay support for Palestine during the consolidation of the conference material by countries that had yet to recognise the state.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir said that there was a sense of hopelessness regarding the Palestinian issue, although the AAC could be the forum in which participants shared their experiences for the benefit of Palestine.

"We must not forget that Palestine's success as an observing country at the UN cannot be separated from the fact that the countries of the Asian-African Conference had lent their hands," Arrmanatha said. "This is more than about seeking independence; it is about a shared commitment to providing capacity building for 10,000 Palestinians."

Aside from the show of support for the formation of a Palestinian state, the conference also aims to focus on continuing the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership (NAASP), as well as reinterpreting the spirit of the Bandung Principle - derived from the Dasasila Bandung, a 10-point primer that was the outcome of the 1955 conference.

The NAASP is an initiative launched at the previous commemoration of the AAC in 2005 as a way to revitalise the long-standing solidarity and spirit of co-operation between Asian and African countries.

Ferdy Piay, the Foreign Ministry's head of the interregional co-operation subdirectorate from the Asia-Pacific and Africa directorate general, said there were two other concrete outcomes the organising committee expected from the forum.

"There are three outcomes that we hope to produce: the Bandung Message, the Declaration of Reinvigorating the NAASP and the Declaration for Palestine," Ferdy told reporters on Thursday.

Indonesia said earlier that it would prioritize eight areas of co-operation as a follow up to the NAASP: counterterrorism, food security, transnational organised crime, energy security, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), tourism, women empowerment and the university network.

In a related development, the Foreign Ministry said President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo had received 18 requests for bilateral talks on the sidelines of the AAC next week.

The requests came from Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, Iran, Sudan, Thailand, China, Bangladesh, Jordan, Timor Leste, Madagascar, Swaziland, Egypt, Palestine and Venezuela.

Data from the ministry said that senior officials from at least 77 countries, namely heads of state from Brunei Darussalam, Jordan, Swaziland, China, Iran, Madagascar, Malawi, Myanmar and Namibia, would attend the commemoration event.

Also planning to attend are leaders from Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Timor Leste, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Egypt, Gabon, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Palestine, Rwanda, Singapore and Thailand.

There will also be 25 ministers and three deputy ministers, in addition to several international organisations such as the African Union, ASEAN, the Arab League and the UN.

"Some have yet to confirm, but this is a strong indication," Ferdy said.

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