M19 10 March 1995

DIPLOMATIC APPOINTMENT: FIJI AND TUVALU

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Gareth Evans, today announced the appointment of Mr Greg Urwin as Australian Ambassador to the Republic of Fiji, High Commissioner to Tuvalu and Permanent Representative to the South Pacific Forum Secretariat.

Mr Urwin replaces Mr John Trotter, who has been Ambassador since August 1991.

Senator Evans noted that Australia's relations with Fiji had been fully restored over the last several years, and said he looked forward to their further development.

"The return of Fiji to parliamentary government in 1992 was a landmark event in opening the way to the resumption of full relations," Senator Evans said.

"Fiji and Australia have a long and close relationship. The frank and positive bilateral ministerial talks held in Canberra in November 1994 demonstrated the positive approach both countries are taking to ensure the relationship is on a sound and constructive footing, and looking towards the future."

"Fiji is important to Australia not only as its second largest trading partner in the South Pacific region, but also as a regional centre for trade, communications, education and transport," Senator Evans said. "As a member of the Cairns Group of countries, Fiji played an important role in assisting bring about a successful outcome to the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations."

Senator Evans said he was encouraged by recent developments in Fiji which suggested the constitutional review process was now firmly moving forwards.

Senator Evans described the South Pacific as a region of the highest foreign policy importance for Australia. The 25th South Pacific Forum held in Brisbane in August 1994 had established a rigorous work program for Australia, as the current Forum Chair, and the other Forum countries to work together to maximise the management of resources in island countries.

Mr Urwin is a senior career officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with particular expertise in the South Pacific region. His postings have included Western Samoa, (he was seconded to the Government of Western Samoa as Secretary for Foreign Affairs from 1979-82), Vanuatu and New Zealand. He is currently Assistant Secretary of the Office of Pacific Island Affairs.

Mr Urwin is expected to take up his appointment in April 1995.

CANBERRA