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ASEAN Fails to Produce Statement on South China Sea Row.

TEHRAN (FNA)- Southeast Asia's main grouping apparently failed to reach a consensus on how to deal with China's territorial expansion in the South China Sea in its final statement of Laos summit, intensifying a diplomatic stalemate that officials said they hope to resolve after closed-door parleys on Sunday.

The foreign ministers of the 10 countries that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations deliberated for several hours, continuing the unfruitful discussions their senior officials had on, but with no result, Indian Express reported.

A bland press statement issued at the end of the talks said only that the ministers had a "candid and constructive exchange of views on regional and international issues - as well as developments in the Middle East, Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea."

But Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee said they haven't completed their discussion yet. "They are now having a working luncheon followed by an ASEAN retreat, so the issue will be discussed during the retreat," he said.

Like all other ASEAN meetings, the foreign ministers' conclave also traditionally ends with a joint communique. But the sticking point is whether to include a reference to the South China Sea.

ASEAN's cardinal principle is decisions by consensus, which means any country can veto a proposal. This time, it is Cambodia, China's close ally. In 2012, Cambodia also blocked a reference to the dispute, which ended with the ministers failing to issue a statement for the first time in the bloc's history.

Sek said the "joint communique is still being drafted." Sunday's talks are expected to deal with terrorism, the economy, climate change, security, the impact of Brexit and other issues. But all this has been overshadowed by the July 12 decision by a Hague-based tribunal in a dispute between China and the Philippines. That's being prevented by Cambodia, said diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter with the media. They said the draft statement to be issued by the ministers on Tuesday left blank spaces under the heading "South China Sea" until a consensus can be reached.

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Publication:FARS News Agency
Geographic Code:0PACI
Date:Jul 24, 2016
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