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Thursday, 22 May 1980
Page: 3154

Dr Everingham asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 23 April 1 980:

(   1 ) Has his attention been drawn to claims, in a Soviet news bulletin issued on 18 April 1980, to the effect that (a) insurgents' in Afghanistan (i) are trained abroad and (ii) have an abundance of modern weapons, including lethal gas grenades marked Made in U.S.A., (b) the America press published reports of rebels in Afghanistan using arms provided by the United States of America Central Intelligence Agency and (c) Soviet forces will withdraw when the Afghan Government no longer needs their help.

(2)   Has his attention also been drawn to a reported statement by a former Secretary-General of the United Nations that in war the first casualty is truth.

(3)   Will he use Australia's good offices with the United Kingdom and other non-involved powers with past experience of armed intervention in Afghanistan to press for (a) discussions among the disputants, (b) international conciliation and arbitration and (c) the replacement of Soviet forces with United Nations forces in Afghanistan.

(4)   Will he demonstrate Australia's consistency by pressing for similar action in relation to the Indonesian occupation of East Timor and West Irian.

Mr Peacock - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(   1 ) and (2) I am aware of the statements referred to by the honourable member.

(3)   Australia is in close and regular contact with all countries which share our opposition to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Government has been active in seeking ways to defuse the crises caused by the presence of over 80,000 Soviet troops in Afghanistan. We attach particular importance to continued dialogue between the countries of the South Asian region and between the superpowers as a means of avoiding misunderstandings which could aggravate an already serious situation. Australia would welcome any peaceful solution involving the complete withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan.

We believe that the international community would wish to see Afghanistan as an independent, non-aligned country free from foreign military and political interference. A number of constructive suggestions have been made to help defuse the crisis by diplomatic means involving the withdrawal of Soviet forces and non-intervention in Afghanistan's internal affairs. There are some common elements in these suggestions which could form the basis of an eventual political solution. We believe that there is presently scope for identifying a practical way forward.

(4)   The Government does not see any parallel between East Timor and Irian Jaya and the situation which currently exists in Afghanistan.

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