Reuters: Efforts to block Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs will be in the spotlight when ministers and officials from 28 Asian and Middle Eastern countries begin talks in Doha on Tuesday. By Odai Sirri
DOHA (Reuters) – Efforts to block Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs will be in the spotlight when ministers and officials from 28 Asian and Middle Eastern countries begin talks in Doha on Tuesday.
Host nation Qatar says the Asia Cooperation Dialogue aims to foster cooperation in energy, finance, technology, agriculture and tourism.
“It is going to focus on economic issues, not politics,” said Mohammed Abdullah Al Rumaihi, a Qatari assistant foreign minister, ahead of the forum which ends on Wednesday.
But on the sidelines of the forum, Asia’s biggest foreign policy players are set to discuss the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea and try to smooth over nagging disputes.
South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon is due to meet his Chinese and Russian counterparts, Li Zhaoxing and Sergei Lavrov, to find ways to end a months-long deadlock in six-way talks on North Korea’s nuclear program. Japan, the United States and North Korea are also involved in the talks.
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso also hopes to hold bilateral talks with Li, the first meeting of foreign ministers from Japan and China in a year.
Ties between Beijing and Tokyo have deteriorated since Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi began annual visits to the Yasukuni shrine for war dead, seen by China and South Korea as a symbol of past Japanese militarism.
Officials said talks between Aso and Li could cover North Korea and also territorial disputes, including a row over a natural gas field in the East China Sea.
Relations between Japan and South Korea have also been soured by a territorial dispute over a set of desolate islands that are claimed by both nations.
A planned meeting between Japan’s foreign minister Aso and South Korea’s Ban is their first since the long-standing row over the islets flared up last month when Japan announced plans for a maritime survey of the area.
Iran is one of the 28 members of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue, and although diplomats say Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki will not attend and will be represented by a deputy, officials from several countries say they want to discuss the standoff over Tehran’s nuclear program.
China and Russia, as veto-wielding members of the United Nations Security Council, have been resisting Western pressure to impose tougher measures on Iran.
Another issue likely to be discussed is the next secretary general of the United Nations.
Kofi Annan has said he should be succeeded by an Asian, but no consensus has yet emerged over a candidate, with Sri Lanka’s Jayantha Dhanapala, South Korea’s Ban and Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai all in the running.