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Visit to the Middle East.



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Mr Smith’s Office: Courtney Hoogen 02 6277 7500 or 0488 244901 Departmental : (02) 6261 1555

M E D I A R E L E A S E

Stephen Smith MP Minister for Foreign Affairs

M E D I A R E L E A S E

FA091 10 June 2008

VISIT TO THE MIDDLE EAST

From 7 - 10 June I conducted a range of successful bilateral visits in the Middle East:

Afghanistan

I travelled to Tarin Kowt to meet Australian Defence Force personnel serving in Oruzgan province, where I received briefings from the commanders of the Special Operations Task Group and the Reconstruction Task Force on the success of their operations in Afghanistan.

I visited Kabul where I met General David McKiernan, Commander, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). I underlined Australia’s commitment to both an ongoing military contribution and a civil reconstruction effort in Afghanistan. I also met with Australian Defence Force personnel working at ISAF headquarters.

Since the attack on the Serena Hotel in Kabul last year the Australian Embassy has been temporarily based in the grounds of the US Embassy compound. I was pleased to be able to visit the Embassy and thank the United States for the assistance and support it has provided to the Australian Embassy and its officials in Kabul.

Iraq

I met members of the Australian Defence Force returning to Australia from Iraq and passed on the thanks of the Australian Government and people for their work as part of the Overwatch Battle Group West in Tallil, Southern Iraq.

While in Baghdad, I met Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, Barham Saleh and advised the Iraqi Government that following the withdrawal of Australian combat forces, Australia’s commitment to Iraq’s recovery and development was entering a new phase.

The Australian Government has increased its aid to Iraq with a commitment of $165 million over 3 years for humanitarian assistance, reconstruction and capacity building.

I also met General Petreaus, Commander, Multi National Force Iraq to discuss recent improvements in security in Iraq. Australia believes there is a need for economic and political progress to consolidate these gains and our enhanced development assistance and capacity building commitment is designed to help achieve this.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)

During my visit to the UAE I explored ways to further deepen the bilateral relationship, including with Her Excellency Sheika Lubna Al Qasimi, the Minister for International Trade and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Mohammed Anwar Gargash. We also discussed the importance of pursuing

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Mr Smith’s Office: Courtney Hoogen 02 6277 7500 or 0488 244901 Departmental : (02) 6261 1555

Australia - Gulf Cooperation Council Free Trade Agreement negotiations. I also met with Australian business representatives and had an opportunity to gauge the breadth and depth of Australian business engagement in the UAE. I also had the opportunity to watch the Socceroos play Iraq and meet with players and officials after the game.

Kuwait

In Kuwait I was pleased to officially open the new Australian Embassy.

I also appreciated the opportunity to discuss the friendship between Australia and Kuwait and ways to enhance the relationship with Khaled Al Jarrallah, Under Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Photo downloadable at http://www.foreignminister.gov.au/photos/smith_afghanistan_lge.jpg