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

Media Release

FA117-  20 September 2003

Visit to The United States and Italy

I will visit New York from 21-28 September for the 58th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.  Following this, I will travel to Italy until 2 October.

At UNGA58, I will pursue Australian interests regarding counter-terrorism, Iraq, Korean Peninsula, weapons of mass destruction, non-proliferation, HIV/AIDS and United Nations reform.  Other priority issues for Australia on the UN agenda are our regional interests - notably Solomon Islands, East Timor and Burma - and our on-going interests in human rights.

On counter-terrorism, I will highlight state failure and capacity limitations as issues needing attention.  Australia is already addressing these issues in the Pacific and with our partners in Asia.  I will underline the importance of stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems, not least to prevent them falling into the hands of terrorists.

Australia wants a more focused, efficient UN system, less bogged down in sterile debates and more capable of responding to contemporary challenges.  I will promote the need for UN reform and support the Secretary-General's call for a fundamental review of the UN's organs.

Events in our own region recall the UN Charter's vision of strong regionally based responses to security-related challenges.  Consistent with that vision, I will highlight Australia's actions in Solomon Islands and Bougainville as examples of the important role of coalitions of the willing in addressing international security challenges.

In New York, I will meet bilaterally with many of my ministerial counterparts, attend a high-level segment on HIV/AIDS, chair meetings of the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers and the Commonwealth Ministerial Counter-Terrorism Committee and attend a meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group.

During my visit to Rome from 30 September to 2 October, I will discuss a range of bilateral, multilateral and regional issues with the European Union presidency, currently held by Italy.  These discussions will reflect our shared interests in working together to address major global challenges.  The Australia-EU Agenda for Cooperation adopted in April 2003 provides a platform for increased cooperation on several key areas including security and strategic issues, migration and asylum, development cooperation and trade.

In bilateral meetings with the Italian Foreign Minister and other senior Ministers, I will affirm our strong bilateral relationship, our close community ties, the dynamic cultural interaction and the clear benefits to both countries of expanding trade and investment.  On the way to Rome I will take the opportunity of visiting the Australian Pavilion at the Biennale in Venice and of calling on regional political figures.

At the Vatican I will have an audience with His Holiness Pope John Paul II and look forward to reaffirming Australia’s commitment to world peace and security

Media enquiries: Chris Kenny (Ministerial) (02) 6277 7500 - Lyndall Sachs (Departmental) (02) 6261 1555

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