Minister at Press Conference after meeting with President Mubarak
Transcript, E&OE, proof only
11 December 2010
FOREIGN MINISTER KEVIN RUDD: I speak Chinese I don't speak Arabic. In fact I just mentioned to His Excellency the President that I first remember seeing him in a visit to Beijing back in the 1980's when I was a career diplomat working in Beijing a long time ago. Let me just say a few things. I've appreciated the opportunity to spend time with President Mubarak. The bilateral relationship with Australia is a strong relationship. We have nearly half a million Arab Australians, tens of thousands of Egyptian Australians, and they are all extraordinarily good citizens of Australia. Our commercial relationship is strong. Our political relationship is good. We are now exploring with the Foreign Minister further areas for cooperation in international forums. And that includes of course on the great challenges of peace in our region, here that includes comprehensive, lasting and just peace between Israel and Palestine, and of course we discussed that again today with the President. I'll continue those discussions this afternoon with the Foreign Minister. More broadly, we through the Arab League have decided yesterday to formally accredit our Ambassador to the Arab League. We have established an Australian Government-Arab League dialogue to begin next year, and I believe you will see me a more frequent visitor to Cairo. Lastly I would say the reason for my visit is to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the formal establishment of diplomatic relations between Australia and Egypt. We celebrated and honoured this last night at a great cultural celebration at the Al Ghouri Center in Cairo. We had many ministers from the Egyptian Government in attendance, and for the first time in history we had Nubian drummers performing with Australian Aborigines. This is probably a unique cultural event. Two ancient cultures performing beautiful music together. So much for my visit so far. I'll be with the Foreign Minister this afternoon, before I head to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority over the next several days.
QUESTION: Mr Rudd, how do you view the Israeli settlements policy in building settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
RUDD: The Australian Government opposes the settlements because we don't believe that new settlements contribute to the peace process. And therefore, and we've said this before and we'll say this again to our friends in Israel, as I will say it directly when I am there soon, that Israel's friends from around the world want to see a just and lasting peace that guarantees the security of Israel and the security of an independent Palestinian state. This has been our position for decades.
QUESTION: Mr Rudd, how do you describe the outline of Australia's involvement in the Middle East?
RUDD: Australia has been a longstanding friend of Israel and a longstanding friend of the Arab peoples. We have very large communities from both worlds in our country. We have many Muslim brothers and sisters around the world and they form part of the great multicultural family that is Australia. And so, we will continue to work with our friends here in the Arab League, in Egypt, in the Gulf, in Jordan, where I soon go to see His Majesty the King, on practical ways forward where we can assist. Also remember there are other countries around the world, great Muslim countries like Indonesia, which follow these events very closely, and it is a matter of concern to both ourselves and the Indonesian Government that we have not seen progress in delivering a real outcome on this peace process here in the Middle East. We in Australia live next door to the largest Muslim country in the world. We have a perfectly friendly relationship, a good relationship. And perhaps we can bring some of that spirit to bear with some of the deliberations here in these deep deep questions.
QUESTION: (Journalist unclear)
RUDD: Well I'd been Prime Minister of Australia for nearly three years, I've been Foreign Minister for a few months, but our policy on these questions has not changed.
We have as I said been longstanding friends of Israel, that goes back a long long time, but we have deep friendships in the Arab world.
Our policy is clear and that is that we need to see a two-state solution which guarantees the security of both an Israeli state and a Palestinian state.
Secondly, we are concerned that time is beginning to run out. We are concerned that too much time has elapsed in a process of negotiations without bringing about real progress and an outcome.
I listened very carefully to what His Majesty King Abdullah of Jordan said recently at a conference I attended with him in Bahrain only a week or so ago, where His Majesty the King said something very wise, that now is not the season or time for politics as usual, it's not the time for business as usual. We need to no longer talk about just a roadmap to peace but where the roadmap ends and that is conclusion of a peace settlement as well.
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