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Diplomatic appointment: Southern Africa

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The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Gareth Evans, today announced the appointment of Senator Kerry Sibraa as Australia's next High Commissioner to Zimbabwe. Senator Sibraa will also be accredited to Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique and Angola.

Senator Sibraa replaces Mr Jonathan Thwaites, who has been High Commissioner since 1990.

"Australia has close and long-standing relations with Zimbabwe. These result especially from the strong ties established following the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Lusaka in 1979, which led to Zimbabwe's independence," Senator Evans said.

"Zimbabwe is a major player in the southern African region and we have always shared with them a strong stand against apartheid and a commitment to a new, democratic South Africa.

"Zimbabwe also plays an important role in the Southern African Development Community, with which Australia has a close working relationship on development issues. We also have a developing trade and investment relationship.

"Australia's relations with the other countries of accreditation are also important", Senator Evans said.

"Zambia is playing a significant role in the establishment of multi-party democracy in Africa and it has long played a major role in supporting the democratic movement in South Africa. It also has a significant economic role in the region."

"Australia's role in the achievement of Namibian independence has led to a warm relationship in the post-independence period. Australia provided a military element to the United Nations Transition Assistance Group to Namibia (UNTAG) and also assisted with Namibia's pre-independence elections in

1989. As with Botswana, we maintain close ties with Namibia through shared membership of the Commonwealth.

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"Australia is closely involved in the United Nations Operation in Mozambique (ONUMOZ), through which the international community is helping to bring peace to the country after 16 years of bitter civil war. Mozambique occupies a

pivotal position in southern Africa, and as a country of great economic potential on the Indian Ocean littoral is of particular interest to Australia.

"We are closely following developments towards democracy in Malawi, and are doing what we can to help with the devastating situation in Angola caused by the breakdown of the internationally brokered 1992 peace accords. Australia is maintaining a close interest in the efforts of the United Nations to encourage a

return to peace in Angola and we are providing humanitarian assistance to the victims of the war there," Senator Evans said.

Senator Sibraa became a senator in 1975 and has had a long standing interest in Africa. He was Chairman of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence from 1984 until his election as President of the Senate in 1987.

Senator Sibraa has represented Australia in a number of overseas visits to countries in Africa as well as to the United States, Eastern and Western Europe, Asia, the Former Soviet Union, the South Pacific and Latin America.

Senator Sibraa led Australian delegations to three Southern African Development Coordination Conferences: in Swaziland in 1985; in Zimbabwe in 1986; and Zambia in 1990.

In 1991 Senator Sibraa was invited by the Commonwealth Secretary General to participate in the Observer Mission to the elections in Zambia and in 1993 he was invited by the Provisional Government of Eritrea to observe the Independence Referendum there.

Senator Sibraa's appointment is subject to the approval of the Governor General in Council. * * * * * *


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