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Thursday, 22 May 1980
Page: 3153

Mr Lionel Bowen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 2 1 April 1980:

(   1 ) Did his Department suggest to the Australian Institute of International Affairs the names of persons whom the institute might invite to its recent seminar The Middle East in World Politics.

(2   ) Was he one of the speakers at the seminar.

(3)   Were any names requested by the institute; if so, what was the precise nature of the request.

(4)   Did his Department provide to the institute the name Mohammed Riad; if so was he described by the Department as Acting Secretary-General of the Arab League, or in any similar way.

(5)   Did his Department provide to the institute the name of Shadli Ghelebi; if so, was he described by the Department as Secretary-General of the Arab League, or in any similar way.

(6)   If the answer to either part (4) or (5) is in the negative, on what basis did his Department determine which of these 2 persons should be suggested to the institute.

(7)   Does the Government recognise as the Arab League the body with head-quarters in (a) Cairo, Egypt, or (b) Tunis, Tunisia.

(8)   Has his Department received representations from any country or countries concerning suggestions it made in respect of the seminar; if so, (a) what was the nature of these representations and (b) in what terms has the Department responded to them.

Mr Peacock - The answers to the honourable member's question are as follows:

(1)   No. The Department of Foreign Affairs was approached by the Australian Institute of International Affairs (AIIA) to suggest people qualified by long experience in the Middle East and involvement with the Arab/Israeli dispute to deliver a paper as keynote speaker to the seminar. It was not approached to suggest who should or should not be invited to the seminar.

(2)   Yes.

(   3 ) See answer to question 1 .

(4)   Yes. The Institute was informed of the division which had developed between members of the Arab League, and Riad was described as the Acting Secretary-General of the Arab League (Cairo).

(5)   Yes. Chadli Klibi was described as the SecretaryGeneral of the Arab League (Tunis) in the context of a description of the division between members of the League (see answer to previous question).

(6)   Not applicable.

(7)   The government regards the present split within the Arab League as a matter for the member states of the organisation and considers that it would be inappropriate for Australia to become involved.

(8)   The Department received representations from the Heads of Mission of the Jordanian, Lebanese, Iraqi and Libyan Embassies in Canberra. The Australian Ambassador in Rome was also approached by the Sudanese Ambassador resident there.

(a)   The Arab Heads of Mission and the Sudanese Ambassador in Rome suggested that the invitation to Riad to address the AIIA seminar was tantamount to official Australian recognition of claims to legitimacy of the Arab League (Cairo) over the claims of the Tunis based organisation.

(   b ) The Department responded by pointing out that:

(i)   the AIIA was a non-governmental body and that the invitation to Riad was therefore not official;

(ii)   Riad was in any case invited because of his long experience in Middle East diplomacy not because of the position he currently occupies; and

(iii)   as outlined in (7) Australia does not believe it would be appropriate for it to take any position on League affairs. The presence of Riad at the conference did not therefore have any implications as to the Australian Government's attitude.

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