The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP

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Media Release

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer
FA149 / 27 September 2001

Diplomatic Appointment: Ambassador to Egypt

I have today announced the appointment of Robert Alan Newton as Australian Ambassador to the Arab Republic of Egypt, with non-resident accreditation to the Republic of the Sudan, the Arab Republic of Syria and the Republic of Tunisia.  Mr Newton will replace Ms Victoria Owen who has been Ambassador since June 1998.  Mr Newton is expected to take up his appointment in January 2002.

Australia values its strong relationship with Egypt.  Australia recognises Egypt's central role in regional political developments and attaches importance to dialogue with Egypt on present and emerging challenges in the Middle East.  Australia has a long-standing commitment to assisting efforts to bring peace to the region and in support of this, is continuing to provide military personnel to the Multinational Force and Observers located in the Sinai.  Australia values its dialogue with Egypt on a range of multilateral issues including WTO matters, arms control and disarmament.

Two-way trade between Australia and Egypt amounted to A$615 million in 2000-01.  Egypt is a substantial buyer of Australian wheat and is an important market for a range of other Australian exports including live cattle, fresh vegetables and dairy products. 

Mr Newton is an experienced career diplomat and is currently Deputy Permanent Representative to the OECD, Paris.  He joined the Department in 1972 and served as Third Secretary, later Second Secretary, Moscow (1973-75), Second Secretary, later First Secretary, Baghdad (1978-81), and First Secretary, Vienna (1988-87) and Tehran (1989-91). 

In Canberra he was the Department's Budget Manager (1996-98), Adviser in the Office of the  Minister for Foreign Affairs in the fields of disarmament, nuclear policy and the Middle East (1995-96); Director of the Middle East and North Africa Section (1992-1995); and Senior Middle East Analyst in the Office of National Assessments (1991-92).  Mr Newton was also Director of the Conventional and Nuclear Disarmament Section (1995) and held positions twice in Nuclear Policy Branch (1981-84 and 1997-88).

Mr Newton has an Bachelor of Arts degree with Honours from the University of Queensland.  He is married with three children.

Media contacts: (Ministerial) Matt Francis (02) 6277 7500, (Departmental) Julie McDonald (02) 6261-1555

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