KOTA KINABALU - The establishment of the ASEAN Community by the year's end will be a turning point for the regional grouping, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said here.
He said it was the culmination of regional integration efforts spanning decades, adding that the grouping must surmount many challenges.
"We are mindful of the challenges ahead of us in the coming months, which will see key ASEAN aspirations come to fruition.
"Never one to rest on our laurels, ASEAN will set its sights on bigger aspirations for the years to come," Anifah said at a welcoming dinner for ASEAN foreign ministers and senior government officials ahead of their retreat today.
Reiterating that Malaysia was honoured to assume the ASEAN chairmanship this year, he said he would be outlining the nation's priorities for 2015 at the retreat.
"I look forward to having a frank exchange of views on how we can move the ASEAN agenda forward in the months ahead.
"With this huge task ahead of us, we must continue to work together, as we always have, in the spirit of friendship and togetherness, as one community," he said.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said Malaysia was doing all it could to fulfil ASEAN's aspirations of making the grouping closer to the 600 million people.
"It was partly for this reason that the Malaysian Government decided to hold ASEAN meetings at the various states this year. This is to allow each state to feel that it too is part of the larger project of Malaysia's chairmanship of ASEAN," he said.
Musa said the meetings would foster a sense of belonging to ASEAN and also the feeling that the chairmanship was being shared amongst all states.
"In line with this, and at every opportunity, Malaysia intends to involve various segments of society in preparing for the meetings," he said.
He said Sabah was looking forward to the establishment of the ASEAN Community because it was likely to have a positive impact on the state's economy.
"Sabah's economic development has seen rapid growth in recent years. This is proof that we are on the right track through our development agenda and other timely initiatives," Musa said.