The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
 FORMER MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, AUSTRALIA

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Media Release

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer
12 June 2001

Diplomatic Appointment: Ambassador to Israel

I have today announced the appointment of Mr Ross Burns as Australian Ambassador to the State of Israel. Mr Burns will succeed Dr Richard Rigby, who has been Ambassador since February 2000.

Australia's relations with Israel have historically been close and characterised by a positive and constructive approach to issues of mutual interest. Australia was one of the first countries to recognise the State of Israel in 1949 and to establish diplomatic relations. Our approach reflects strong political sympathy and a fundamental commitment to Israel's right to live in peace within secure and recognised borders. Australia has consistently taken a supportive role in encouraging efforts to find a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which will satisfy the essential needs of both parties. 

There is an active Jewish community in Australia, which takes a keen interest in Australia's relations with Israel, and which is doing much to encourage the development of bilateral ties. Recognition is growing in the business community of the potential benefit to Australia of closer economic and scientific cooperation with Israel. Similarly, potential exists for Israel to to take a more active commercial interest in Australia as a base for an expansion of its trade in the Asia-Pacific region.

Mr Burns is a senior career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and most recently served as Australia's Ambassador to the Hellenic Republic and Bulgaria. He has served as High Commissioner in Pretoria (1992-95), Minister in Paris and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO (1991-92), Ambassador in Damascus (1984-87), Counsellor in Bangkok (1980-82) and Counsellor in London (1979-80). Mr Burns has also served in Cairo, Port Moresby, Islamabad and Lagos.

In Canberra, Mr Burns' appointments have included Assistant Secretary, Europe Branch (1997), Acting First Assistant Secretary, Public Affairs Division (1996), Assistant Secretary, Parliamentary and Media Branch (1995-96), Assistant Secretary, South Asia, Africa and Middle East Branch (1988-91) and Director, New South Wales State Office (DFAT) (1987-88).

Born in Sydney in 1943, Mr Burns is a graduate of the University of Sydney and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree.

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