Following strained relations since the 2006 murder of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu, Malaysia is now working to revive bilateral ties with Mongolia.
Malaysia’s ambassador to China who is concurrently accredited to Mongolia, Zainuddin Yahya, said he is hopeful that Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail’s visit to Mongolia will revive the relationship.
Wan Azizah is scheduled to arrive in Mongolia later today for a three-day visit. She is attending the Asian Ministerial Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) at the Mongolian capital until July 5.
"It is my fervent hope that the working visit by the deputy prime minister to Mongolia will lead to the revival and strengthening of relations between the two countries," Zainuddin said.
He is also hoping that the joint commission for the economic, scientific and technical agreement, which was signed between the two countries many years ago, can be revived. Zainuddin said Malaysia and Mongolia "had never met" after the agreement was signed.
"We hope that the first joint commission meeting between the two countries could be convened as soon as possible because this is a very important forum to explore potential cooperation," he said.
Malaysia established diplomatic ties with Mongolia in 1971 but engagements at the ministerial level had been limited, he said.
Zainuddin said the Malaysia-Mongolia diplomatic relationship became lethargic in 1997 as there had been few exchanges at the ministerial and official levels, and within the private sector.
He acknowledged that the Altantuya murder had turned the relationship "colder". He believes the Mongolian government took an interest in the case and is seeking a fair judgment.
Altantuya is believed to have been shot dead before her body was blown up with explosives at a secondary forest near the Subang Dam in Puncak Alam, Shah Alam, in 2006.
Former Special Action Force personnel Sirul Azhar Umar, together with his colleague Azilah Hadri, were convicted of Altantuya’s murder and sentenced to death.
Zainuddin said Malaysia's new government had made clear that the Altantuya case would be reopened and has pledged for the case to be subjected to the rule of law.
Zainuddin said he has yet to receive any request from the Mongolian government for a meeting on the Altantuya case.
Trade volumes between Malaysia and Mongolia were valued at RM73.6 million in 2017 and RM66.7 million in 2016.
Malaysia exports electrical products, processed food, palm oil-based products and agricultural products to Mongolia. Mongolia exports cashmere-based products and scrap iron to Malaysia.
Wan Azizah's visit to Mongolia is her first as deputy prime minister.
She heads the Malaysian delegation to the conference, which will be attended by more than 3,000 participants, and will convey the country's statement on the initiatives, implementation, achievements and challenges faced in reducing the risk of disaster.
Besides the sessions on ministerial statements, Wan Azizah will also attend the Asian Leaders’ Meeting together with AMCDRR nations and deliver her keynote address on “Coherence on 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goal” at the technical session.
She will also hold bilateral discussions with the special representative of the UN secretary-general for disaster risk reduction, Mami Mizutori.
Additionally, she is scheduled to have meetings with deputy secretary-general of Asean for the Asean Sosio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Vongthep Arthakaivalvatee;, executive director of Asean Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) Adelina Kamal, chair of UNISDR Scientific and Technology Advisory Group (Stag), Rajib Shaw, and Exco Programme Development and Operations of Mercy Malaysia Norazam Samah.
"The gathering enables the participants to share information, experience and exchange of views and the national plan towards reducing and managing disaster risks,” said Zainuddin, adding that Malaysia would share experience and expertise in managing flash floods at the conference.