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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

ASEAN Meeting Ends on High Note

SINGAPORE -- Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov will sing only Russian tunes.

Nearing the end of three heated days of diplomacy, foreign ministers from more than 20 nations planned an evening of skit and song Tuesday that has come to be a highlight of the annual meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and its Asian and Pacific partners.

Last year in Manila, Philippines, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and then Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov sang a duet from the musical "West Side Story," which they renamed "East-West Story."

For this year's spectacle in Singapore, Russia planned to go solo with a more patriotic jingle.

"We sing only to Russian tunes," Russian spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told The Associated Press.

Albright skipped the post-conference dinner to travel to Rome, Kosovo and Sarajevo before returning to Washington.

After she and Ivanov met Monday, they pronounced the rift between the two countries on the mend.

"We have turned the corner," Ivanov said, adding that U.S.-Russian relations must proceed without "any deviations or surprises."

The two countries decided to install a second Washington-Moscow "hot line" to help avoid misunderstandings such as those that developed over Kosovo.

The new "hot line" between the U.S. State Department and the Russian Foreign Ministry will be in addition to the longtime communications link that has connected the White House and the Kremlin since early in the Cold War.

While stressing that serious differences remain, Albright and Ivanov were upbeat at a joint news conference, focusing on future cooperation on numerous issues, including peacekeeping and reconstruction in the Balkans.

"The Russian-U.S. relationship was so important and so broad that it could not be damaged by the Kosovo situation," Albright said. She and Ivanov met for 2 1/2 hours at a working dinner during the annual regional security forum.

On Tuesday, Ivanov warned that developments in Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians now prevail over minority Serbs, could encourage separatist tendencies in Asia.

"The negative influence of the Balkan crisis consists in the fact that objectively it promotes the radical methods of solving interethnic problems," Ivanov said.

After NATO's recent intervention to end the decade-long harassment and expulsion of ethnic Albanians, tables have turned on Serbs, who are fleeing Kosovo and appear to have lost the province.

"The military action of NATO against Yugoslavia, and its consequences, are involuntarily projected on the potential conflicts in the Asia-Pacific region," Ivanov said.

Observers have expressed concern over a possible "Balkanization" of Indonesia, where several provinces have been clamoring for more independence. Indonesia's 200 million people belong to different ethnic groups and tribes, and the province of East Timor will soon vote on some degree of autonomy.

In another development at the ASEAN conference, European Union President Tarja Halonen Tuesday stressed the need to bring China, Russia and Vietnam into the World Trade Organization quickly.

"The EU endorses wholeheartedly the efforts made by China, Russia and Vietnam to become WTO members," Halonen said.

President Boris Yeltsin on Tuesday granted Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov one of the country's highest decorations for his role in running the nation's foreign policy, Reuters reported.

A Kremlin spokeswoman said Ivanov, who spearheaded Russia's opposition to NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia earlier this year, received an order "For Services to the Fatherland," second rank. The first rank of the order is not awarded and belongs to the president as one of his symbols of power.

A career diplomat, Ivanov was named foreign minister amid a major economic and political crisis last autumn.