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Monday, 23 November 1998
Page: 382

Mr ROSS CAMERON —My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the fact that we celebrated on the weekend the National Day of Lebanon, Lebanese independence, and with the recent appointment of a new President of Lebanon, General Emile Lahoud, I ask the minister: what is the Australian government's attitude towards the place of Lebanon in the unfolding Middle East peace process?

Mr DOWNER (Foreign Affairs) —I thank the honourable member for Parramatta for his question. I recognise the great interest he shows in the Middle East in general and in Lebanon in particular. We obviously welcome the positive response that there has been in the international community to the Middle East peace process and to the Wye River agreement. We would like to see as time goes on the Wye River agreement being an important stepping stone towards what we hope will eventually be a comprehensive peace settlement for the Middle East.

In the case of Lebanon, the honourable member will be aware that the Lebanese government and the Lebanese people have sought for a long time the fulfilment of United Nations Security Council Resolution 425. They can aspire to seeing UN Resolution 425 implemented in the context of an overall Middle East peace settlement. The important thing is that the Wye River agreement has given the Middle East peace process renewed momentum when momentum was lost. We very warmly welcome that.

It gives me the opportunity to say that the agreement has now been ratified by the Palestinian Legislative Council and the Israeli Knesset. That is good news. There are going to be difficulties in the implementation, but, as I said, the implementation of Wye River is a part of the overall implementation of the Middle East peace process. We look forward to its eventual conclusion.