Indian Ocean Rim Association media conference

Subjects: Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), Perth Principles, Consular case in Sri Lanka, Iran and asylum seekers.

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

1 November 2013

JULIE BISHOP … representations from ministers and senior officials from our 20 member states of the Indian Ocean Rim and representations from our Dialogue Partners. It was a very important meeting of our organisation in its 16-year history. We have changed our name, we are now the Indian Ocean Rim Association or IORA. We have for the first time held a ministerial retreat so that our ministers and senior officials were able to have a free-flowing, more informal discussion about current issues and also priority areas that we wish to discuss in the future. We have made a significant step in enhancing engagement with our Dialogue Partners who have been important contributors to the success of this Association to date. Our six thematic themes, our pillars of priority in maritime safety and security, trade and investment, fisheries management, disaster relief management, academic and scientific and research exchanges and tourism and cultural exchanges have all been the subject of discussion.

And while we have confirmed our focus on those six key thematic priority areas we've also identified a number of cross-themes or crosscutting issues including the empowerment of women and girls in our region and the importance of education throughout the region. I am pleased to say that we have agreed on the first ever Declaration to be issued by a ministerial meeting of IORA and our Declaration is also supported by the Perth Principles, which reflect our commitment to focus on the central importance of the Indian Ocean. Indeed, the Principles go to the peaceful and productive and sustainable use of the magnificent Indian Ocean and its resources. It is a fact that IORA is the only body of its kind with a broad-based agenda and a membership that spans the Indian Ocean region and our ministers and representatives recommitted to maximising the potential of this Association. We talked about the clear focus, the common interests and the capacity of the member States to effectively deliver on the priority areas on the matters that are of concern to the peoples in our respective countries.

I thank all of the member states for their attendance. I particularly want to thank Minister Khurshid from India for the great work that they did as chair in the previous two years. The revitalisation of this Association owes much to India's work as chair. Likewise, I want to thank Minister Natalegawa and Indonesia's readiness to take on the role of vice-chair of this organisation. As a troika we are determined to work together to ensure the vitality and energy that was so evident in the ministerial retreat today can be sustained.

Finally, I thank the Secretary-General and the Secretariat for their work over the last 12 months and of course previously, and I look forward to working with our 20 member states, our dialogue partners and our broader communities as we focus on matters of concern to the nations whose shores are lapped by the magnificent Indian Ocean. Thank you. Are there any questions? Yes?

QUESTION: Can I begin just a little bit off topic, apparently two Australians went to Sri Lanka on a tourist visa. They were going there to make a documentary, they were allegedly being detained after attending some kind of rally. I just wanted to see if you - what you knew about the situation and if you have made any representations to the Sri Lankan Government on their behalf?

JULIE BISHOP I'm informed by the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister that they're on their way back to Australia as we speak. Any other questions? Yes?

QUESTION Have you had an opportunity to meet with Iran's diplomat about what you flagged a few days ago with the repatriation agreement?

JULIE BISHOP Yes, we have had an opportunity to have a discussion. It was very productive, along the lines of the discussion that I had with Foreign Minister Zarif in the United Nations General Assembly Leaders Week, we held a discussion about this issue and I followed that up in our meeting today.

QUESTION Any specifics about perhaps safeguards with return of asylum seekers?

JULIE BISHOP The details of the conversation are, of course, confidential but it was a productive discussion and building on the conversation, the meeting that I had with Foreign Minister Zarif in New York.

QUESTION I have seen you have been putting a strong emphasis on the role of the Dialogue Partners. My home country is Japan. It also includes the space for China or the big powers in the world. So what kind of role and how can we enhance the role of the Dialogue Partners of IORA?

JULIE BISHOP: IORA's member countries are those littoral states of the Indian Ocean. However, we have had successive Dialogue Partners join our Association in that capacity over the years and Japan is one of our Dialogue Partners. The Dialogue Partners offer advice, expertise, they provide general support and we welcome their contribution. Today each Dialogue Partner by virtue of their representative's presence here today made a statement about their support for IORA and our Principles and our aspirations. So their support and their contributions are very much welcome.

However, it's the 20 member states that focus on the priorities for the Association and we work closely together as member organisations but we certainly value the contribution of the Dialogue Partners who have an interest in the peace and prosperity and stability of the Indian Ocean.

QUESTION: Julie Bishop, where do you expect Australia will take IORA after two years? Where do you expect the organisation to be? There's a lot of talk about revamping, revitalising IORA, apart from just the name and also how does this fit in with Australia's [indistinct]?

JULIE BISHOP: We are building on the work that was commenced by India over the previous two years in revitalising the Association. And today I was struck by the enthusiasm for IORA and what it stands for and what it means to the member countries. And Australia hopes to ensure that we come up with results. Through our discussions we've come up with a number of initiatives, in fact, Australia has provided details of nine separate initiatives that we intend to fund that focus on fisheries, on matters to do with the resources in the ocean, exchanges of ideas and expertise, and knowledge so that we can build capacity in the member states, where we can fill gaps in expertise in member states and there was a great deal of enthusiasm for the role of IORA.

As I said it is the only body that exists with an agenda that focuses on Indian Ocean rim issues. It's quite a precious resource in that regard. So Australia's chairmanship is to deliver value to the member states, to ensure that we maintain the relevance of the organisation and that the foreign ministers who attend our meetings feel it's appropriate to contribute their precious time and resources and efforts to the priorities of this Association

I am confident that when we hand over the chairmanship to Indonesia, the Association will continue to be vibrant and vital and we look forward to it going to even further heights under Indonesia's chairmanship. And South Africa has indicated that it would be keen to be the vice-chair to Indonesia. So the sustainability of the Association is assured and I'm sure that more member states will continue to take a leadership role as chair.

On this occasion we introduced some sub-themes, some cross-themes, including the empowerment of women and that was exceedingly well-received and I think that that's an area where we'll see more direction, more focus, more results as we work together to find value in a dialogue on the empowerment of women and girls plus education and other themes that we've discussed.

So I've been very pleased with the outcome of the meeting today. Thank you. Appreciate it.

ENDS

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