ANKARA (AA) – Foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) condemned the recent burnings of copies of the Quran in Sweden, the Netherlands, and Denmark.
“We condemned in the strongest terms the acts by extremist, far-right politicians in certain countries of burning and desecrating the Holy Quran last month,” they said in a statement published on the bloc’s website on Saturday.
“This act of blasphemy has hurt and tarnished religious tolerance. Freedom of expression must be exercised in a responsible manner. We reaffirmed ASEAN’s commitment to continue encouraging dialogue and understanding and promoting the spirit of peaceful co-existence to achieve peace and harmony in a diverse global community,” it added.
The ministers met in Jakarta, Indonesia, to discuss regional issues in the first significant get-together by the regional bloc since Indonesia took chairmanship for 2023.
The meeting also discussed the situation in Myanmar as two years have passed since the military took power, overthrowing Aung San Suu Kyi's government in a coup on Feb. 1, 2021, after her National League for Democracy party won national elections in November 2020.
The bloc urged authorities to make significant progress in implementing the Five-Point Consensus to pave the way for an inclusive national dialogue.
The "Five-Point Consensus" includes an immediate end to violence in the country; dialogue among all parties; the appointment of a special envoy; humanitarian assistance by ASEAN; and the special envoy's visit to Myanmar to meet with all parties.
"We stressed that inclusive national dialogue is key to finding a peaceful resolution to the situation in Myanmar (and) all stakeholders must create a conducive environment for an inclusive national dialogue by ceasing violence and ensuring the timely and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance," it said.
The meeting also reaffirmed its commitment to preserving the Southeast Asian region as a nuclear weapons-free zone and free of all weapons of mass destruction to safeguard peace and security.
"We reaffirmed our commitment to continuously engage the Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) and intensify the ongoing efforts of all parties to resolve all outstanding issues in accordance with the objectives and principles of the SEANWFZ Treaty," it said.
The treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone, also known as the SEANWFZ Treaty or Bangkok Treaty, was signed on Dec. 15 1995 by 10 Southeast Asian States.
The ASEAN top diplomats also discussed the situation in the South China Sea.
"We reiterated the commitment of ASEAN and urged all parties to cooperate in a constructive and peaceful manner for the South China Sea to become a sea of peace, stability, and prosperity," it said.
The diplomates also welcomed the resumption of negotiations to adopt a Code of Conduct (COC) for the South China Sea between ASEAN countries with Indonesia announcing it will host the next round of COC in March.
Territorial disputes in the South China Sea involve conflicting island and maritime claims in the region by several sovereign states, including China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
The bloc also expressed concerns about the recent surge in North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile tests and ballistic missile launches. It urged a resolution to all issues through dialogue and a continuation of working for lasting peace and stability in a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.
*Writing by Islamuddin Sajid