Actions of Russia and China are key issues, Anthony Albanese tells world leaders at ASEAN summit

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  • Several sideline meetings have resulted in Australia reaffirming its relationship with Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Japan and Ukraine.
  • Mr Albanese reaffirmed support for Ukraine against Russia’s invasion.
  • Over nine days, Mr Albanese will attend four regional summits including the G20 summit and APEC meeting.
The first day of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s trip across Southeast Asia was marked by a flurry of meetings, commitments and a new diplomat to strengthen relations.
Mr Albanese is in Phnom Penh attending the East Asia and ASEAN-Australia summits.
Several sideline meetings have resulted in Australia reaffirming its relationship with Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Japan and Ukraine.

But work continues behind the scenes on seeking a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has not had a formal meeting with an Australian leader since Malcolm Turnbull in 2016.

“There are no preconditions for a meeting; I look forward to having a constructive dialogue if a meeting takes place,” Mr Albanese told reporters on Saturday.
Mr Albanese reaffirmed Australia’s relationship with Southeast Asia by announcing Nicholas Moore as special envoy.
The diplomatic position was a Labor election commitment and Mr Moore will lead the Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040.
He said the former Macquarie Group head would bring respect and experience to the role.

“It’s part of my government’s determination to reach out to the leaders in the business community to ensure that we have … the private sector as well as government doing what we can to promote Australia’s national interests,” he said.

Russia and China key issues

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and China’s trade and security muscle-flexing are key issues for the prime minister during the nine-day trip.
Peace, stability and security in the Indo-Pacific are also front of mind as meets with his fellow world leaders.
Mr Albanese said more communication between nations was key to solving global challenges.
“Dialogue between people is always positive,” he said. “Out of dialogue comes understanding and we need more, not less, in today’s uncertain world.”
Communication will be put to the test at a dinner for world leaders hosted by the King of Cambodia Norodom Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen.

United States President Joe Biden, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are among those expected to attend.

Australia commits to more Ukraine support

Earlier, Mr Albanese reaffirmed support for Ukraine against Russia’s invasion, promising an extra 30 armoured vehicles to the nation, taking the total to 90.
Australia has also sent 70 Australian Defence Force personnel to the United Kingdom to provide training assistance to Ukrainian soldiers.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Mr Albanese the armoured vehicles had become a symbol of Australia’s political and economic support to his nation.

“Bushmasters became the most popular Australian brand in Ukraine,” he said.

Mr Albanese promised to consider a request from Ukraine for assistance with energy infrastructure.

“The ongoing targeting of civilians by Vladimir Putin’s forces is reprehensible and against international law,” Mr Albanese said.

“We’re very proud that this is making a substantial difference to the defence of your people … be assured of Australia’s ongoing support and our admiration for your struggle.
“I express on behalf of the Australian people our condolences for the loss of life that the Ukrainian people are enduring.”
Mr Albanese had meetings on the summit’s sidelines with other leaders, including Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

“This is a chance for us to build relationships in our region so early in the term of the new government,” he said.

Food security, cybersecurity, climate change and “strategic competition in the region” have also been flagged as important topics for discussion.
Mr Albanese will head to Bali on Monday for the G20 summit before attending the APEC meeting in Bangkok.
While Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to take part virtually.
Mr Albanese would not confirm whether Australia would join with other nations in isolating Mr Lavrov at the meetings.

“We will engage constructively in the G20 but I certainly won’t be seeking out any meetings with the Russian foreign minister,” he said.

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