The 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM13) scheduled to be held in Cambodia in November has been postponed until mid-2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation press statement released on Saturday said.
The decision was made during a two-day meeting between Sok Siphana, a senior adviser to the government and ASEM senior officials on Thursday and Friday via video conference.
“Due to Covid-19 ASEM officials unanimously expressed their understanding and support for Cambodia’s request to postpone ASEM13 to mid-2021,” the press statement said.
Cambodia planned to host the meeting on November 16-17 in Phnom Penh under the theme Strengthening Multilateralism for Shared Growth.
Siphana expressed his appreciation for the support extended to Cambodia and ensured the success of the summit, logistically and substantively, the ministry said.
During the two-day meeting, ASEM senior officials also expressed the need to promote effective multilateralism and a collective response to the pandemic. They said Covid-19 created daunting challenges to public health systems across the globe and severe fallout to the global economy.
“ASEM meeting leaders discussed the draft ASEM Ministerial Statement on Covid-19, which is expected to be released in mid-July,” the press release stated.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Koy Kuong could not be reached for comment on Sunday, but the ministry’s secretary of state Luy David said on Facebook that Covid-19 remains a global challenge.
“The consequences of this pandemic have left Cambodia with no choice but to postpone the 13th ASEM summit to next year,” he wrote.
The director for Asia and Oceania at the Netherlands’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Karin Mossenlechner, who attended the two-day meeting, said on Twitter that she hoped the next meeting could be held in person.
“Diplomacy is all about personal contacts! But most important is that we work together to protect the most vulnerable,” she tweeted.
Kin Phea, the director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said it was apt that this world-level meeting is postponed even if it meant the loss of a historic opportunity for Cambodia to host it, he said.
“If we want to proceed with the meeting, the only possible way to do it is via video conference, but I think the government doesn’t want to do it this way because there is no benefit for Cambodia.
“We want to show Cambodia, we want to show the political stability, peace, and our ability to organise world events. I see the postponement as reasonable and in line with the real situation that the world is facing,” Phea said.