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Roadmap for cooperation expected at third ASEAN-Russia Summit in Sochi

The third ASEAN-Russia Summit will take place for the very first time on Russian territory in Sochi, starting from Thursday (May 19).

A joint plan of action for developing cooperation over the next four years between Russia and the 10 ASEAN member states is said to be in its final stages of coordination.

The last ASEAN-Russia summit was held in 2010 in Vietnam, where the leaders reiterated their commitment to consolidating their partnership to raise ties to a higher level. This year's meeting is a significant one - it celebrates 20 years of partnership between Russia and ASEAN.

The summit is expected to adopt a declaration that will function as a roadmap to enable stronger collaboration between the two parties, especially on the economic front.

Mikhail Galuzin, Russian Ambassador to Indonesia and Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to ASEAN, commented: "We hope that as a result of the summit elevating our relations to the level of strategic partnership, we will further develop our cooperation in such areas as industries, infrastructure, agriculture, humanitarian sphere, tourism, emergency response, energy and many others."

Trade figures recorded in 2014 showed a total value of US$22.5 billion was exchanged between Russia and ASEAN. This makes Russia the bloc's eighth-largest trading partner.

Russia is also proposing the idea of partnership with ASEAN in the economic, political and military fronts via greater dialogue with the Eurasian Economic Union and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. These groupings include Russia, Central Asian states and China.

But some analysts have said that ASEAN member states will see little benefit from deeper economic ties, because the varying degrees of economic wealth and progress among the members may pose a hindrance to chances of a successful bilateral and trilateral partnership. They noted it could be more fruitful to strengthen relations in regional security.

Said Adriana Elisabeth, director of the Research Centre for Politics, Indonesian Institute of Sciences: "I think political and security issues seem to be more relevant for Russia and ASEAN to develop more significant cooperation. We know the (issue) in the South China Sea, which (has) divided ASEAN; this is a very serious issue. And the other issue is regarding the Korean peninsula.”

Other security issues range from the growing threat of terrorism to transnational crime, where intelligence cooperation may be an important step in reaping benefits for both parties.

With a broad spectrum of issues up for discussion, the ASEAN-Russia Summit may not only see potentially significant deals getting inked, but could also prove to be catalyst for both parties to gain the momentum they need for stronger collaborations moving forward.

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