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After ASEAN and G20, diplomats make last push on Ukraine crisis at APEC


A possible spillover of the war in Ukraine into Europe’s eastern flank, which risks sparking a new phase of the conflict, will overshadow the agenda at this week’s APEC Summit in Bangkok.

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BANGKOK — A possible spillover of the war in Ukraine into Europe’s eastern flank, which risks sparking a new phase of the conflict, will overshadow the agenda at this week’s APEC Summit in Bangkok.

The latest developments in Europe are likely to eclipse the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum as business leaders, heads of state and diplomats try to find a way out of the conflict in Ukraine. The war has led to a stubbornly high global inflation that’s challenged policymakers and caused a crippling cost of living crisis. 

The summit, a forum traditionally aimed at investment deals and trade liberalization, follows the meetings of ASEAN in Phnom Penh and the Group of 20 in Bali. It may be the last opportunity in a recent round of diplomatic efforts in the region to attempt to find a consensus among world leaders to secure a pathway toward peace talks between the warring parties. 

Every war ends with diplomacy, not guns and weapons: APEC CEO Summit executive director

Kasemsit Pathosak, Executive Director of the APEC CEO Summit summed up the outcome business leaders wanted to see: “How do we help bring all the parties in the conflict here to the table and try to find a solution? We need to get to that point as soon as we can.”  

“People in every APEC economy are struggling with the global economic challenges that have been exacerbated by Russia’s war,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told journalists on Thursday.

“Addressing those consequences together was a key focus of our meetings here in Bangkok. Thailand has shown exceptional leadership in steering APEC through a challenging time,” he said.

Expectations of any diplomatic breakthrough are low. Major stakeholders such as U.S. President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin won’t be attending, though China’s President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will.

Plus, APEC ministerial level meetings in the run-up to the November summit have failed to issue a joint statement or communique spelling out the position on Ukraine. Russia itself is a member of the 21-economy bloc as are allies China and India.

Thailand’s Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai remains optimistic. In his address to the United Nations General Assembly in September, he referred to the upcoming ASEAN, G-20 and APEC summits as the venues for a type of rolling diplomacy and a “golden opportunity for all super stakeholders of the Ukraine crisis.”

The high-level meetings could function as a “possible off-ramp or exit to this high-tension global crisis in Ukraine.”  

APEC is shaping up as the platform for a final diplomatic push with all eyes on the bloc to see if it delivers a joint statement that comes close to a unified position on Ukraine.

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