Joint Statement on Australia-Arab Relations

Joint media release:

  • Minister for Foreign Affairs, The Hon Kevin Rudd MP
  • Secretary General of the League of Arab States, His Excellency Mr Amre Moussa

10 December 2010

The Secretary General of the League of Arab States, His Excellency Mr Amre Moussa, and the Foreign Minister of Australia, the Hon Kevin Rudd MP, met in Cairo today to discuss regional and global issues of common interest, and ways to enhance dialogue and engagement between the Governments and peoples of Australia and the member states of the Arab League.

The two sides noted the broad-ranging and positive relations existing between Australia and the members of the Arab League. They acknowledged Australia’s longstanding contribution to regional security and stability in the Middle East including deployments of Australian Defence Force personnel to the United Nations and international peace keeping missions. They welcomed Australia’s contribution of development and humanitarian assistance projects in the region and capacity building and development support in Iraq. The two sides recognised the importance and central role of the Arab League to the security and prosperity of the Middle East region.

The Secretary General and the Foreign Minister noted the strong people to people links existing between Australia and the Arab world. Hundreds of thousands of Australians of Arab descent are making an active and positive contribution to contemporary Australian society and help underpin the strength and diversity of Australia-Arab relations. These close ties are reinforced by the tens of thousands of Australians living and working in the Gulf and the Middle East, the more than 100,000 tourists which visit annually both ways, and by the thousands of students from Arab countries receiving a first-class education in Australia.

The Foreign Minister and the Secretary General expressed their strong support for efforts to achieve a comprehensive, just and sustainable peace in the Middle East allowing both Israel and a future Palestinian state to live side by side in peace and security. They urged both sides to seize the opportunity for peace by continuing, as a matter of urgency, direct talks, with the goal of reaching agreement on final status issues within one year, and to refrain from any actions, including settlement activity in the Palestinian Territories, which undermined trust and the climate for negotiations. They commended the important contribution of the Arab Peace Initiative to these efforts.

The Secretary General and the Foreign Minister commended the efforts of the Palestinian Authority to develop the capacity and institutions necessary for a viable Palestinian state. They reaffirmed the commitment of Australia and the Arab League to supporting these efforts, including through financial and other tangible assistance. They welcomed the significant increase in Australia’s assistance to the Palestinian people, totalling $146 million since late 2007, and noted Australia’s intention to further strengthen development and capacity building assistance in preparation for statehood.

Noting the already positive relations between them and mutual desire to enhance their engagement, the two sides agreed to establish an Australia-Arab Dialogue as a framework for further exchange and cooperation between the governments and people of Australia and the Arab League. In this context, both sides agreed to work on the preparation of a Memorandum of Understanding between the General Secretariat of the Arab League and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia as a framework of mechanisms for the Australia-Arab Dialogue.

As part of the Dialogue, the two sides have agreed to enhance political consultations and exchanges of views on regional and global issues of common interest. This will include annual meetings between the Secretary General of the Arab League and the Australian Foreign Minister in the margins of the UN General Assembly meetings in New York and other meetings as opportunities arise, and meetings between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and accredited Ambassadors in Canberra as required. The Arab League welcomed Australia’s request that its Ambassador to Cairo be formally accredited to the Arab League.

Foreign Minister Rudd has accepted the Secretary General’s invitation for him to address a meeting of Arab League Foreign Ministers in 2011. During this visit, the Secretary General and Foreign Minister Rudd will be able to sign the above mentioned Memorandum of Understanding on the establishment of the Australia-Arab Dialogue.

The two sides agreed to enhance trade and commercial relations and to promote increased business linkages between Australia and the Arab League. In this context, the two sides welcomed the holding of the inaugural Australia-Arab Business Forum and Expo, organised by the Australia-Arab Chamber of Commerce and supported by the Australian Government, in Melbourne on 5-6 May 2011. The forum will provide an important platform to strengthen trade and economic relations and private sector linkages between Australia and the Arab world. Mr Rudd welcomed the Secretary General’s in principle agreement to visit Australia at the time of the forum. The two sides noted the valuable role of other business organisations in Australia and in Arab countries, including regional and bilateral business councils, in promoting trade, economic and people to people links between Australia and the countries of the Arab League.

The Arab League and Australia have agreed to further develop and enhance educational and cultural exchanges, believing that such cooperation will foster greater mutual understanding and friendship between the peoples of Australia and the Arab world. The Secretary General welcomed Australia’s initiative of providing Australia Awards scholarships to students from a number of Arab League countries, important for strengthening educational exchange, building capacity and promoting stronger people to people links between Australia and the Arab world.

The two sides acknowledged the important role of the Council for Australia-Arab Relations in promoting cultural, educational, media, sporting, scientific and other exchanges, and promoting mutual understanding and people-to-people linkages between Australia and the Arab world. They agreed to continue to support actively the Council’s work, including through disseminating information on the Council’s activities in Arab countries and regularly sharing information with their accredited Ambassadors in Canberra.

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