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Australia and Laos elevate bilateral relations at Southeast Asian summit

The Southeast Asian summit served as the backdrop for an agreement between Australia and Laos on defense, environment, energy, and agriculture issues.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Leaders of Australia and Laos signed an agreement that deepens bilateral ties on Wednesday on the final day of a Southeast Asian summit.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and his Laos counterpart Sonexay Siphandone are co-chairing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' special summit being held in Melbourne to mark 50 years since Australia became the 10-nation bloc’s first external partner.

SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS MEET TO DISCUSS BURMESE CIVIL WAR, SOUTH CHINA SEA CONFLICTS

The agreement elevates the relationship to a comprehensive partnership which will become the foundation for collaboration on defense, environment, climate, clean energy, agriculture and education.

Laos, the bloc’s poorest nation, took over ASEAN’s rotating leadership from Indonesia this year and is pursuing a theme of enhancing connectivity and resilience.

Albanese said the key themes of Wednesday’s discussions would include trade, investment, climate change, clean energy and maritime cooperation.

These will be reflected in the leaders' communique to be adopted later on Wednesday.

China’s increasing assertiveness in the region and the ongoing violence and humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, as ASEAN state, have also loomed over the three-day summit.

Myanmar has been denied political representation at the meeting over its failure to stem violence in that country since a military junta seized control in 2021.

East Timorese Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão is also attending the summit after ASEAN agreed in principle to admit Asia’s newest country.

The former independence fighter has called on ASEAN do more to restore peace and democracy in Myanmar.

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