EU, ASEAN agree to deepen ties, respect Ukraine territory

BRUSSELS, Dec 14 (Reuters) - The European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed at their first summit on Wednesday a need for deeper economic ties and a respect for the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

The leaders of 27 EU countries and nine of 10 ASEAN leaders were invited to a commemoration of 45 years of diplomatic relations, with only military-ruled Myanmar excluded.

The leaders discussed areas of future cooperation, including trade, the green and digital transitions and health. The two blocs have already signed a deal to allow their airlines to expand services more easily.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced a 10 billion euros ($10.65 billion) commitment to 2027 for investment on infrastructure in ASEAN, with a focus on green projects and connectivity.

The EU wants to expand its trade ties beyond its free trade agreements with Singapore and Vietnam and negotiations with Indonesia. The EU and ASEAN are each other's third largest trading partners and this was the first summit between them in the history of the two regional groupings.

Von der Leyen and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen both said the ultimate goal was a region-to-region free trade agreement.

The two blocs affirmed their commitment to rules-based international order.

The European Union was keen for a statement to describe the war in Ukraine as an act of aggression by Russia.

The final wording echoed that agreed by the leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) nations at a meeting chaired by ASEAN member Indonesia last month. Both said that "most members" condemned the war and recognised the human suffering it was causing.

"There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions," the EU-ASEAN statement said. "We continue to reaffirm, as for all nations, the need to respect the sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity of Ukraine."

Singapore is imposing sanctions on Russia, while Laos, Thailand and Vietnam abstained in a United Nations vote in October to condemn Russia's claims of annexation of Ukrainian regions.

The summit statement also stressed the importance of peace in the South China Sea and expressed deep concern about the February 2021 military coup in Myanmar and "grave concern" about instability on the Korean peninsula.

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Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Grant McCool

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