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

Media Release

FA142 - 15 October 2004 

Diplomatic Appointment: Ambassador to Egypt

I have today announced the appointment of Dr Bob Bowker as Australian Ambassador to Egypt, with concurrent accreditation to Libya (until our post opens there in 2005) and Tunisia.

Dr Bowker will replace Mr Robert Newton who has been Ambassador since January 2002. Dr Bowker is expected to take up his appointment in January 2005.

Australia values its warm relationship with Egypt. Australia recognises Egypt's central role in regional political developments and attaches importance to dialogue with Egypt on current and emerging challenges in the Middle East and internationally. Australia has a long-standing commitment to helping further peace efforts in 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 cooperation with Egypt on a range of multilateral issues including WTO matters, arms control and disarmament.

Two-way trade between Australia and Egypt amounted to $614 million in 2003-4. Egypt is a substantial buyer of Australian wheat and is an important market for a range of other Australian exports including live cattle, faba beans, dairy products and a range of manufactured goods.

Dr Bowker is a specialist on Middle East and Islamic issues. He joined the then-Australian Department of External Affairs, now the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), in 1971. Dr Bowker has had a number of overseas postings, including two postings to Kuala Lumpur (1971-1973 and 1982-1985); Jeddah (1974-1976); and Damascus (1979 to 1981). He was Australian Ambassador to Jordan from 1989-1992 and accredited at that time to Tunisia.

From 1994-1995 Dr Bowker was the DFAT research scholar at the Australian National University's Centre for Middle East and Central Asian Studies. In 1997-1998 he was Director, External Relations and Public Information and subsequently Senior Adviser, Policy Research of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Gaza and Jerusalem. From 2001-2003 he was seconded from DFAT to the Directing Staff of the Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies at the Australian Defence College, Canberra.

In Canberra, Dr Bowker has been the Director of the Middle East Section of DFAT three times, most recently in 1999-2000. Currently on leave from DFAT, Dr Bowker is the Visiting Reader (Associate Professor) in the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, the Middle East and Central Asia, at the Australian National University teaching graduate courses on the dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Persian Gulf security.

Dr Bowker graduated from the University of Melbourne in 1970 with a Bachelor of Arts degree with Honours in Indonesian and Malayan Studies. He has a Master of Arts degree from the Australian National University (1995) and a Doctor of Philosophy, also from the Australian National University (2001). He is married with four adult children.

Media inquiries:  Chris Kenny (Ministerial) 02 6277 7500, Julie McDonald (DFAT)) 02 6261 1555

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