Foreign ministers show their funny side

United States Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick belted out “Oh my darling Clementine”, Australia’s foreign minister asked for a date, and the Russians adopted a Star Wars look.

Foreign ministers performing skits at an Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) dinner in Vientiane brought levity to a week of heavy meetings.

“It’s now or never,” crooned Australia’s Alexander Downer to officials and foreign ministers from 10 South-East Asian nations and their dialogue partners late on Thursday.

“Let’s consummate, fulfil the promise, a summit date,” he sang to whistles and laughter.

Downer this week committed Australia to Asean’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC), reversing an earlier stance and securing a place at a summit that could lead to the creation of a new East Asian community.

“Only yesterday, the TAC did not rate, and just in time, I’ve changed my mind ... it’s great,” he sang, his delegation twirling blue feather boas behind him.

Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Pierre Pettigrew wore dark sunglasses to lead a black-suited “rat-pack” that teased the Australians.

“Australia wants in ... their way of saying they’re not really Yanks,” he sang.

“Take down tariffs and open up trade ...
in Asean style, it could be delayed, but so what?” he continued.

The Japanese, pushing to host the Rugby World Cup in 2011, tossed around a rugby ball. With regional giants like Japan as partners, the Asean team can “stand tall and catch the high ball”, they said.

Wrapped in a cloak evoking the Jedi characters from Star Wars and brandishing a plastic sword, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov spoke of the discovery of a new planet called the Association of Supposedly Extraordinarily Agreeable Nations—a jibe about fundamental Asean principle of consensus.

Zoellick wrapped up the evening with a low-key performance, his delegation standing stiffly by in cowboy costumes.

The skits are a regular feature of a gala dinner for the Asean foreign ministers and the major powers with which they hold a dialogue.

The dinners are normally closed to the media, but Lao television this year broadcast the entire show live on national television.—AFP

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