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Tuesday, 19 November 1974
Page: 2475

Senator SIM - I direct my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to reports on the discussions between a senior member of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Mr Suslov, and an Australian delegation led by Mr Renouf in which an assurance was given that Russia had no intention of establishing a naval base in the Indian Ocean. Is the Government aware that Russia is reported to have the use of naval facilities at

Vishakhapatham in India, Berbera, Aden and Mauritius; has a number of mooring buoys in the Indian Ocean area to facilitate the servicing of Russian naval vessels; and is also reported to be constructing facilities at Socotra at the entrance to the Red Sea? Are not the assurances given by Mr Suslov worthless as Russia already possesses all the facilities required to operate an increasing naval presence in the Indian Ocean?

Senator WILLESEE -Senator Sim is obviously referring to the fourth round of the official level talks between Australia and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics which took place in Canberra on 14 and 15 November. These are talks that Australia has with several countries, not only the USSR. The Soviet delegation was led by Mr Sulsov, the head of the Foreign Ministry's Second European Department. The talks have become a regular annual feature of consultations between the 2 Governments. Similar consultations take place with other countries, including Great Britain, Canada, India, Japan and Indonesia. The principal topic in the discussions was the preparation for a possible visit by the Prime Minister to the USSR early in 1975. Of course, the discussions also covered a range of other international questions. The Soviet presence in the Indian Ocean to which Senator Sim specifically referred was mentioned. The newspaper reports that Australia accepted Mr Sulsov's presentation were incorrect. Mr Suslov explained the importance of the Indian Ocean to the USSR, as the only maritime link for most of the year between the USSR's European and far eastern territories. Mr Renouf explained that Australia was concerned that any escalation of foreign military or naval forces in the Indian Ocean could increase the risk of conflict. He asked that the Soviet Government's attention again be drawn to the Australian Government's request for mutual restraint by the 2 super powers, as well as by other leading powers with forces in this region.

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