PM to head Russian group; Indon leader attending to ‘domestic concern’
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo are skipping the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders summit in Manila next week.
The announcement of the withdrawal of Putin’s attendance made by the state news agency Tass followed an announcement by a Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) official that Widodo has also begged off so he could attend to “domestic concerns.”
According to the Tass report, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will represent Russia at the summit.
“I can confirm that [the]Prime Minister will represent Russia at [the]APEC summit in Manila,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said, adding that Medvedev also plans other visits in southeastern Asia.
“In this respect from the viewpoint of optimization of schedules of the top leadership of the country, [the]President has made a decision not to go that far together with the premier with literally 1-2 days’ difference,” he said.
Peskov added that the Russian president traditionally pays much attention to the APEC summit and its agenda. “An article written by [Putin] focusing on [the]APEC summit agenda and cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region in general is being prepared. It will be published before [the]summit in leading media of APEC countries,” the Kremlin spokesman said.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma and Malacañang’s deputy spokesman Abigail Valte on Thursday said they “need to verify” the reported development on the Russian delegation.
The DFA, meanwhile, said there is no confirmation of Putin’s withdrawal from the summit.
Briefing reporters at the APEC International Media Center set up at the World Trade Center in Pasay City (Metro Manila), Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Laura del Rosario confirmed Widodo’s absence during the leaders’ meeting on November 18 and 19.
She cited information given by senior Indonesian officials who are in Manila for the Concluding Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) on Friday.
“There are things in Jakarta that need some of his attention. He decided to get the period in between [G20 meeting in Turkey and East Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur] to go home and address some domestic concerns,” del Rosario, also the chairman of APEC SOM, said.
She, however, added that the APEC meetings will not be affected by Widodo’s absence.
Del Rosario did not elaborate on the “domestic concerns” Widodo must address, but said that even while he was in a visit to the United States, he needed to cut it short because a recent forest burning in Indonesia caused haze to spread to Singapore, Malaysia and even the Philippines.
She said Widodo earlier confirmed his attendance in the APEC summit through a letter, but backed out at the last minute.
Instead of the Indonesian president, The Jakarta Post reported that Vice President Jusuf Kalla will grace the leaders’ meeting.
Del Rosario said Indonesia’s trade and foreign ministers are in Manila to ensure that Indonesia’s “position will be reflected at the senior officials and the leaders’ declaration.”
Widodo, she added, was particularly excited about the economic growth of the region, and was looking forward for the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting (AELM), but she is sure that Indonesia’s interest will be represented well by Widodo’s senior officials.
“Whatever position Indonesia has will be reiterated by his own foreign minister and trade minister. We all know his trade minister is very liberal in his decision . . . knows issues on APEC.”
“[But] of course, we will miss him at the SOM. [He will] not be [able to]deliver his intervention himself,” del Rosario said.
A report by the Jakarta Post quoting sources from the presidential palace said although Widodo might attend the G-20 Leaders Summit in Anatolya, Turkey, on November 15 and 16, he would likely miss the APEC Leaders Summit in Manila.
Widodo is also reportedly hesitant to attend the East Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from November 20 to 22.
“Both the Philippines and Malaysia are members of Asean and his decision to forgo attendance could prove a diplomatic embarrassment to his two hosts,” the Post report said.
The spokesman for Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla confirmed that the latter had been told to attend the APEC summit on Widodo’s behalf.
Explaining the Russian leader’s change of plans, the Russian news agency said President Putin also delegated Prime Minister Medvedev to attend the annual meeting of G8 leaders in the United States in 2012 as he was engaged in forming his new Cabinet.
“Other leaders also sometimes resort to swaps, for example, the US President Barack Obama did not visit APEC summit in Russia in 2012 as the event coincided with the Democratic Party’s convention,” Tass said in its report.
The Kremlin at the same time dismissed allegations that the appointment of Medvedev as head of the Russian delegation to the APEC summit instead of Putin came because the premier was allegedly enjoying better relations with Obama, who also plans to take part in the forum.
“This is an incorrect estimation, which shows lack of understanding of the essence of Russian policy in the Asia-Pacific region,’ the spokesman said.
“This [Russia’s policy in the region] is an independent dimension of the Russian foreign policy,” having no correlation with bilateral relations with the United States, Peskov said.
“Russia has rather constructive and close relations with many representatives of the Asia-Pacific region. This cooperation will of course continue irrespective of our bilateral relations with third countries,” he added.
Peskov said Medvedev will make up a program of his bilateral meetings himself.
The spokesman refused to answer the question whether Medvedev would meet with the US President.
“This question should be addressed to the government,” Peskov said. “Dmitry Medvedev would make up his program and I am probably not the one to comment on this.”
He noted that such summits “give a great opportunity for communication on the sidelines.”
According to the spokesman, Putin’s contacts with colleagues will not be affected by his decision not to take part in the APEC summit.
He said “some of bilateral meetings [planned at the summit]will be compensated by telephone conversations, [and]some other meetings have not been coordinated yet.”
The P10-billion budget to bankroll the country’s hosting of the APEC summit is a moderate figure and less than the expected expenditure, Paynor said also on Thursday.
He added that the figure is less than what the Philippines would be showcasing in the leaders’ summit next week.
“I always say [this]is a very decent amount . . . [for]something we actually need,” Paynor said.
APEC, a regional forum composed of 21 economies in the Pacific Rim, promotes free trade and economic cooperation in the Asia Pacific region.
The Philippines is a founding member of APEC.
Paynor explained that the P10-billion budget went to the hosting of at least 47 meetings from January 2015, as well as meetings from November 13 to 19.
None of it was used to acquire new equipment prior to the start of the meetings since President Aquino said the Philippines will not be building new facilities for the summit and would instead use existing ones.