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Thursday, 2 March 1989
Page: 297

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Senator SHORT —My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. Has the Government decided in recent days to recognise Mr Ali» «Kazak» as the official representative in Australia of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)? If so, when did the Cabinet take this decision and was it endorsed by Caucus? What are the Government's reasons for this major shift in Australia's foreign affairs policy? Why has the decision not, as yet, been officially announced?


Senator GARETH EVANS —I stated on 15 December that Yasser Arafat's announcements and commitments in Geneva the previous day in which he unambiguously accepted Israel's right to exist within secure and recognised borders, when he renounced all forms of terrorism and accepted resolutions 242 and 338 as the basis for negotiation with Israel, had satisfied the Australian Government's conditions for direct dealings with the PLO. Against that background, the Government has decided-that was communicated the day before yesterday to Mr «Ali» «Kazak» -that it has no objection to the Palestine Information Office being designated in future the Palestine Liberation Organisation Information Office.

We have taken no decision and communicated no decision about the status of Mr «Kazak» himself. But the situation is as I have just described it. That has been an executive decision taken by me in consultation with the Prime Minister and communicated in the way that I have described. There is no secret about it. In fact, I gave the text of my letter to Mr «Kazak» to one of the Jewish newspapers yesterday which expressed interest in this matter and was running a story on the basic theme.

I make it absolutely clear, as I did in the letter to Mr «Kazak» , that this office has no diplomatic status in the eyes of the Australian Government, that the Government does not recognise the so-called state of Palestine and as a result the office would not be accorded diplomatic or consular status nor any privileges and immunities of the kind one associates with diplomatic offices. As I have said repeatedly, the question of Australian recognition of a Palestinian state, and the diplomatic corollaries of that, will arise only in the context of an overall peace settlement.


Senator SHORT —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the Minister for his answer. Will he table the letter to Mr «Kazak» ? Would he not agree that this decision represents a major shift in Australia's foreign affairs policy? Why has it not been publicly announced? Was the Executive decision endorsed by Caucus?


Senator GARETH EVANS —The decision announced on 15 December represented a major shift in Australian Government policy for reasons that I made perfectly clear at the time in this Parliament and in a series of public statements. This decision made in recent days and communicated a couple of days ago is a mere corollary of that original decision.


Senator Short —It is a major extension.


Senator GARETH EVANS —It is not one such as to justify any particular hoopla. Certainly Senator Puplick, for one, in the course of his recent discussions and dealings throughout the Middle East has had no inhibitions about recognising the implications of the shift in attitude by the PLO that occurred last year. He wants to contribute to the process of dialogue in a constructive way, just as does the Australian Government. We applaud him for it. Senator Short should catch up with the pace that exists all the way around the rest of the world and not be mired in a collection of prejudices which are now clearly outdated by current circumstances.

Yes, I am perfectly happy to table and incorporate in Hansard the letter to Mr «Ali» «Kazak» . Let me read into the Hansard the last paragraph of that letter because it helps put in context the Government's decision and corollaries to that decision of the kind that I have just referred to. What I said in the last paragraph was this:

The Government has welcomed the positive development in the PLO's approach to the peace process as expressed by Mr Arafat in Geneva and trusts that its commitments are pervasive and permanent. You will appreciate that any retreat from these commitments in the future, however, will necessarily result in a further review of the Australian Government's position. Our willingness to make the kind of gesture embodied in our acceptance of the renaming of your office is very much contingent on both the letter and spirit of those commitments continuing to be observed.

Mr President, I seek leave to have the letter incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The letter read as follows-

Senator The Hon. Gareth Evans Q.C.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade

Parliament House

Canberra A.C.T. 2600

28 February 1989

Mr «Ali» «Kazak»

Director

Palestine Information Office

27 State Circle

Deakin ACT 2600

Dear Mr «Kazak ,

In my statement of 15 December 1988 I said that PLO Chairman Arafat's unambiguous statement accepting Israel's right to exist within secure and recognised borders, renouncing terrorism and accepting UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 as the basis for negotiations with Israel had cleared the way for direct dealings between the Government and the PLO by meeting the three conditions set down by the Government.

Consistent with this new approach, and in response to your various representations on the subject, I can now advise you that the Government has no objection to the Palestine Information Office being called the Palestine Liberation Organisation Information Office.

Let me make it absolutely clear, however, that since the Government does not recognise the ``state of Palestine'', your office will not be accorded diplomatic or consular status nor any privileges and immunities. As I have said previously, the question of Australian recognition of a ``Palestinian state'' will arise only in the context of an overall peace settlement.

The Government has welcomed the positive development in the PLO's approach to the peace process as expressed by Mr Arafat in Geneva and trusts that its commitments are pervasive and permanent. You will appreciate that any retreat from these commitments in the future, however, will necessarily result in a further review of the Australian Government's position. Our willingness to make the kind of gesture embodied in our acceptance of the renaming of your office is very much contingent on both the letter and spirit of those commitments continuing to be observed.

Yours sincerely,

Gareth Evans