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Visit to Middle East by minister for foreign affairs



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No. M3 4 Date 22 March 1982 THE HON. TONY STREET, M.P.

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VISIT TO MIDDLE EAST BY MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. T o n y Street MP>

announced today that he planned to make an official visit

of two and a half weeks to the Middle East, leaving Australia

on 25 March. Mr Street said he would visit I s r a e l , Egypt,

Jordan, Saudi Arabia arid B a h r a i n . : ’

Mr Street said that although Australia was distant geographically

from the Middle East, the region was strategically and

economically very important to Australia. T h e Government was

sharply aware of tensions in the area and the dangers that they

posed for strategic and economic stability. Austr a l i a believed

that a comprehensive settlement to the Arab/Israeli dispute was

— necessary to avert these dangers in the long term. Mr Street

said that Australia's involvement in the Sinai reflected the

Government's determination to do what it c o u l d to help

achieve a lasting peace settlement in the M i d d l e East. .

Emphasising the economic importance of the M i d d l e East to

Australia, the Minister noted that the last decade had seen

our trade with the Middle East increase by m o r e than 800%,

that 76% of our oil imports came from the area, and our

dependence on Middle East routes for communications with E u r o p e .

The Minister regretted that while it was not possi b l e on this

occasion to call on all the countries in the area w h i c h had

extended invitations, he hoped that the visits w h i c h had been

arranged would help build on our present cordial relations.

Mr Street said that while in the region he w o u l d also pay a

brief visit to the Australian contingent to the Sinai

Multinational Force at its base at El G o r a h .