JAKARTA, Indonesia — Southeast Asian foreign ministers met in Indonesia’s capital on Friday, Feb. 4, 2023, for talks overshadowed by the deteriorating situation in military-ruled Myanmar despite an agenda focused on food and energy security and cooperation in finance and health.

Myanmar belongs to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), but the annual ministers’ retreat is being held in Jakarta without its foreign minister, Wunna Maung Lwin.

His forced absence is a result of Myanmar’s lack of cooperation in implementing a five-step agreement made in 2021 between Asean leaders and Myanmar’s military leader, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing.

In the agreement, Myanmar’s military leaders promised to allow a special Asean envoy to meet with jailed ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and others to foster dialogue aimed at easing the crisis, set off by the military’s seizure of power two years ago.

Last year, when Asean was chaired by Cambodia, Min Aung Hlaing was not invited to the November meeting of Asean leaders after Myanmar declined to let an Asean envoy meet with Suu Kyi.

Analysts said the military takeover in Myanmar loomed large over the foreign ministers’ meeting, even as Indonesia, the chair of Asean this year, seeks to dampen concerns that the issue will hold the bloc “hostage.” (AP)