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Thursday, 7 May 1987
Page: 2490

Senator DURACK —My question is directed to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the forthcoming meeting of the South Pacific Forum. Does the Government still intend to raise the question of Libyan influence in the Pacific and, in particular, the apparently increased links with Vanuatu at that Forum or will it back off following that warning by Father Walter Lini that any airing of his country's relations with Libya will spell the end of the Forum?

Senator GARETH EVANS —As I said in answer to a question on this subject on Tuesday of this week, Libyan activities in the region are an issue of regional security and significance and therefore they would be expected to be of interest to all members of the South Pacific Forum, the Forum being the appropriate regional organisation to consider matters of regional concern. So we would certainly expect this issue to be discussed in Apia. I cannot believe that any comment made by Father Lini, or anybody else, would in itself be seen by us as making it inappropriate for the matter to be so raised. I add further that discussion of this issue does not represent any intention to interfere in the internal affairs of any one of the Forum member countries. It would simply be an appropriate recognition of regional concern.

I reiterate the point I made earlier in the week; that is, that a very senior officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs in the next few days will visit all the Forum members and discuss with them the Libyan issue and possible approaches to reacting to it. No doubt in the light of those discussions we will be much better informed about how best, and to what extent, the issue might be addressed in the Forum context. I think it would be premature to speculate in any more detail at this stage as to how the matter might be raised in that context.