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Bilateral talks with Thailand hailed by FMs

Bilateral talks with Thailand hailed by FMs

Officials say border row won't hinder warming of relations.

FOREIGN ministers from Cambodia and Thailand resumed joint policy talks for the first time in three years Wednesday after months of fractious relations over a border temple dispute.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and his Thai counterpart Kasit Piromya met at a Bangkok hotel to discuss the spat and deeper economic ties.

Clashes near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple have left several soldiers dead since July 2008, when the temple was granted UN World Heritage status, and tensions have also arisen over disputed waters where both countries have granted oil and gas exploration rights to private companies.

High-level delegations have met at various times over the past year in an attempt to heal the rifts, but Wednesday's meeting is the first time since 2006 that ministers have convened their joint policy commission.

The body had previously met once a year to oversee relations between the two countries.

Hor Namhong hailed the meeting for promoting "progress" between the two countries after his return from talks, adding, however, that he urged Thailand's parliament to approve recommendations from previous border talks that are hoped to speed a resolution to the dispute over territory contested by the neighbours.

"The agreement should be approved as soon as possible ... so that the Joint Border Commission can begin demarcating the border," he said.

The foreign ministers said earlier that they would resume the joint technical committee on the maritime dispute and vowed the disagreement would not be an obstacle.

"Our problems will not trouble our relations. Whatever our troubles are, we will solve them," Kasit said following the two-hour meeting.

Whatever our troubles are, we will solve them.

The pair also reached agreements on efforts to fight human trafficking and an arrangement that will allow some prisoners, after serving minimum periods of imprisonment, to be transferred in order to serve their remaining sentences in their own countries.
The discussions took in economic ties, as well, with Hor Namhong saying the pair had discussed opening a new border crossing in Banteay Meanchey province.

"[Prime Minister] Abisit Vejjajiva agreed to study this and push to open [the new border crossing] soon," he said, adding that Cambodia had also urged Thailand to ease restriction on the purchase of produce from Cambodian farmers along the border.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

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