>Cambodia asks UN to put off border dispute meet: diplomat

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UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – Cambodia has asked the UN Security Council to postpone a formal meeting on its tense military standoff with Thailand pending talks next week between the two countries’ foreign ministers, Vietnam’s UN envoy said Thursday.

Le Luong Minh, who chairs the council this month, said he received a letter from the Cambodian UN mission asking him to put off the meeting “pending the result of the meeting between the two foreign ministers.”

“I received a letter informing me that Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia has agreed with Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej of Thailand that there will be a meeting between the foreign ministers on July 28 to find a peaceful solution to the situation,” he noted.

As a result, the Cambodians wanted a council meeting postponed, he added.

Some 4,000 Thai and Cambodian soldiers are facing off over a small patch of land near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple , in one of the most dangerous flare-ups of regional tensions in decades.

More than 500 Thai and 1,000 Cambodian troops are stationed around a small Buddhist pagoda in a disputed patch of land on a mountain slope leading to the temple, which is owned by Cambodia.

Wednesday, the council held a preliminary discussion on Cambodia’s request for a meeting of the powerful 15-member body but decided to revisit the issue Thursday as some delegations sought instructions from their capitals on how to proceed.

“We are worried about the situation,” France’s UN Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said. “We think the council should meet as fast as possible” to deal seriously with this formal request from a member state.

Ripert said that France backed a mediation by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which both Cambodia and Thailand are members.

But he made clear that the Security Council, as a guarantor of international peace and security, had “to assume its responsibility” to help reduce tension, given the risk of a deteriorating situation “with serious consequences”.

Thailand and Cambodia earlier Thursday announced they would resume high-level talks in the Cambodian town of Siem Reap on July 28 to try to settle their dispute.

And Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo said Thursday it was “premature” to bring the Thailand-Cambodia border dispute to the UN Security Council and urged more bilateral efforts between the rivals.

Yeo said that both sides were urged to exercise restraint when the issue was discussed during the just concluded ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).

All 27 members of ARF “called for restraint, a speedy resolution and to maintain the status quo,” Yeo told reporters.

Earlier Thursday, Cambodia called for all soldiers to be withdrawn from the disputed border area near the ancient temple at the center of the week-long military standoff with Thailand.

Talks aimed at resolving the crisis ended without resolution on Monday, raising fears that the crisis could erupt in violence.

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