‘Jet crash probe grounds Putin’

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AN ongoing inquiry into the recent crash of a Russian jetliner in Egypt was the reason why Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to skip the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila, a Malacañang spokesman said on Friday.

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Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said this was revealed by the Russian leader who called President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Thursday night to personally explain why he could not attend the summit that Manila is hosting.

“President Aquino replied that he understood fully well the issues that are confronting the Russian government, and that he also understands the need of President Putin to stay in his country to ensure that the reasons behind some of their domestic issues are fully investigated and threshed out,” she added.

Valte said the Russian delegation will instead be headed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, in Putin’s absence.

A Russian commercial aircraft crashed last October 31 in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board.

“The reasons that were discussed [were]relative to the ongoing investigation on the Russian jetliner that had recently been downed. I say ‘downed’ because there is an ongoing investigation as to the reasons for its going down and, as you know, a number of Russians suffered or perished in that crash,” Valte said.

“The President did extend his understanding on the loss of life and recognize fully well that it is a cause for concern for President Putin,” she added.

On  Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Valte said there had been no formal confirmation of his decision to skip the APEC meeting.

But she added that the Indonesian president would “most likely be unable to attend the summit.”

“It is quite regretful that President Joko Widodo will be most likely be unable to attend the summit. We understand that pressing matters back home require his immediate attention,” Valte said.

Ex-VP to represent Taiwan

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO)—the de facto mission in the Philippines of the Republic of China (Taiwan)—also on Friday clarified that former Taiwanese vice president Vincent Siew, not President Ma Ying-jeou,  is the one attending the APEC summit in Manila next week.

Manila and Taipei have no formal diplomatic relations in deference to the Philippines’ one-China policy.

Because of China’s objections, no Taiwanese president has ever been invited to APEC summits.

In a statement, TECO said Ma has appointed Siew as his representative.

“President Ma believes the former vice president’s expertise, background, experience and connections will undoubtedly and substantively enhance the nation’s influence in the trade regime within the Asia-Pacific, and that is why he has again invited former Vice President Siew to serve as his representative,” a statement read.

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