ASEAN issues first joint statement on ISIS crisis

ASEAN issues first joint statement on ISIS crisis
US Secretary of State John Kerry pledged S$270.6 million in aid for the reconstruction of Gaza.

ASEAN foreign ministers have raised concerns over the situation in Syria and Iraq, issuing their first joint statement on the brewing crisis over militant group ISIS.

The 10-nation bloc released a joint statement on the issue yesterday, after an ASEAN-US ministerial meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Individual nations, Singapore included, had previously condemned the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), but ASEAN had said nothing on the issue collectively until yesterday. No ASEAN member is as yet a member of the United States-led coalition engaged in the Middle East conflict.

While the statement did not explicitly name ISIS, it said that ASEAN denounces "all acts of destruction, violence, and terror in all its forms".

It added that ASEAN countries "expressed concern over the rise of violence and brutality committed by terrorist/extremist organisations and radical groups in Iraq and Syria, noting that these groups not only pose a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, but also to all countries in the Middle East, and if left unchecked, to the rest of the world".

ASEAN supported calls for the international community to work together to fight terrorism and extremism, while it also backed the UN Security Council resolutions passed last week that aim to compel countries to take measures to stem the flow of foreign fighters to militant groups.

The ISIS crisis has seen an increasing impact on the region in recent weeks.

On Thursday, the Malaysian authorities arrested three men it suspected were headed to Syria to fight alongside the militant group. The Pentagon estimated that around 1,000 ISIS fighters had come from across India and the Asia Pacific.

The Abu Sayyaf rebel group in the Philippines - which has pledged allegiance to ISIS - has threatened to kill two German hostages in retaliation for the ongoing US-led air strikes in Iraq and Syria.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who attended the ASEAN-US meeting, yesterday thanked the ASEAN ministers for "taking a strong stand against ISIL and for supporting the global effort to stop the spread of foreign terrorist fighters". ISIS is sometimes referred to as ISIL.

He similarly welcomed the grouping's support for the international efforts to battle the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, but called on ASEAN to show "commitment and leadership in supporting the global drive to combat climate change".

On continuing tensions in the South China Sea, Mr Kerry stressed the importance of clarifying an agreement on self-restraint as the bloc continues to try and push for a Code of Conduct on territorial disputes.

A statement from the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in turn, said that all parties at the meeting were satisfied with the state of ASEAN-US cooperation and looked forward to the next ASEAN-US summit in Myanmar in November.

US President Barack Obama is expected to attend meetings in Myanmar after heading to Beijing for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit.

Yesterday, ASEAN foreign ministers also held their first meeting with ministers of the Pacific Alliance, a trade bloc of four Latin American countries. The leaders discussed ways to enhance cooperation between the two groups.

This article was first published on Sep 28, 2014.
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