Cambodia has suspended its complaint to the UN Security Council over the standoff at Preah Vihear temple in order to allow for senior Thai and Cambodian officials to meet Monday in Siem Reap, Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Thursday evening.
Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej called Prime Minister Hun Sen at 4:30 pm Thursday, and the two agreed to hold the meeting Monday morning, Khieu Kanharith said.
The Security Council had been slated to hold an emergency meeting Monday regarding the military standoff.
“Cambodia suspended its complaint to the UN Security Council…. We did this to show our good will to settle the issue. We will use every possible way to settle the issue, bilaterally or internationally. It is good that we can settle the issue between us,” Khieu Kanharith said, adding that the foreign affairs ministers from both sides will attend the meeting.
Khieu Kanharith said the previous peace talks ended in a stalemate when Thailand raised the issue of border demarcation around Preah Vihear temple, where he said approximately 4,000 Thai and Cambodian military personnel are facing off.
He declined to say in detail what will be discussed during Monday’s meeting.
“The agenda is open, but we will discuss how to reduce the tension between the two countries,” Khieu Kanharith said.
Defense Minister Tea Banh, co-president of the General Border Committee and Cambodia’s delegation leader at the first round of peace talks, declined to speculate on the chances for resolution or on what new offers Cambodia might place on the table to defuse the military standoff.
“I cannot tell you before the meeting,” Tea Banh said by telephone late Thursday.
The Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh declined to comment.
The revived bilateral negotiations came after days of stalemate and on the verge of the UN Security Council taking up Cambodia’s request for an “urgent meeting” to prevent “imminent armed conflicts.”
The UN Security Council began preliminary discussions of Cambodia’s complaint Wednesday night, and was slated to continue those talks Thursday, Nguyen Dang Trung, second secretary for Vietnam’s mission to the UN, said by e-mail from New York. Vietnam is currently serving as president of the 15-nation Security Council.
Foreign Affairs Ministry Secretary of State Ouch Borith flew to New York on Wednesday and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong was originally set to fly to New York tonight.
Thailand has opposed Asean or UN intervention, however, and of the UN Security Council’s five permanent members, only France has backed UN intervention at this stage.
“If we can defuse the tensions, and if we can prevent any development that could be dramatic for the region and for peace and security, we will do it, and we think we have to do it,” the Associated Press quoted French Ambassador to the UN Jean-Maurice Ripert as saying Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the US and China have said a bilateral approach is preferred.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice suggested Thursday that bilateral talks continue rather than sending the issue to the UN Security Council, according to the Associated Press.
“[W]e believe that this is a problem best resolved bilaterally or within an Asean context,” said US Embassy spokesman John Johnson on Thursday. “[T]he least action necessary to achieve a desired objective is the wisest course,” he wrote by e-mail.
Chinese Embassy Third Secretary Qian Hai said bilateral negotiations are always the preferred approach.
“We hope they can resolve the dispute through peaceful dialogue,” he said by telephone Wednesday. The British Embassy in Phnom Penh declined to comment, and the Russian Embassy remained undeclared on how best to resolve the standoff.