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Tuesday, 14 May 1985
Page: 1871

Senator ROBERTSON —My question is directed to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Malaysian Foreign Minister has recently announced a proposal for consideration by the Association of South East Asian Nations for proximity talks on Kampuchea. These would involve negotiations through an intermediary among the principal parties to the problem, including the People's Republic of Kampuchea Government supported in Kampuchea by Vietnam. Does this imply that the Malaysian Government or other governments in the region recognise the PRK Government as legitimate?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The governments of the South East Asian region, including the ASEAN group, are considering a range of ideas on Cambodia. The Malaysian proposal for proximity talks has been publicly welcomed both by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Hayden, and the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Mr Hurford. While Australia is not involved in this proposal, we welcome any positive steps by the parties to the Cambodian problem towards a negotiated settlement. It is true that proximity talks would involve contact with representatives of the PRK authorities. Such contacts would not imply any form of recognition of the legitimacy of the PRK Government of Mr Heng Samrin. It is well understood in international law that dealings with such authorities need carry no such implication if that is not the intention of the other government or governments concerned.

Australia believes that, in the pursuit of a peaceful negotiated settlement of the Cambodian problem, it is desirable to hear the views of the principal parties concerned. Prince Sihanouk visited Australia in February this year, Mr Son Sann-who leads the other non-communist group opposing the PRK-visited Australia in 1983, and we have had frequent discussions with both leaders in New York and Bangkok. This has never implied any Australian recognition of the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea which, of course, includes the Khmer Rouge. Nor does the Australian Government have any intention of recognising the PRK. Australia believes that a legitimate Cambodian Government can emerge only from a negotiated settlement in Cambodia and the exercise by the Cambodian people of their right to self-determination.