Downer Responds To Bush’s Statement On The Middle East

Alexander Downer has commented on President Bush’s statement on the Middle East.

In response to a question in the House of Representatives from Liberal backbencher Petro Georgiou, Downer said: “The government welcomes the statement made by President Bush.”

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Hansard transcript of question to Alexander Downer about the Middle East.

Mr GEORGIOU (2:03 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Following President Bush’s statement overnight on the Middle East, would the minister update the House on Australia’s approach to the conflict there?

Mr DOWNER (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —I thank the honourable member for Kooyong for his question. I know he and many of his constituents have a deep concern about the situation in the Middle East. The government welcomes the statement made by President Bush yesterday Washington time. President Bush is right in saying that the current situation offers no prospect for anyone. He is also right in calling for all those involved to fulfil their responsibilities. We have consistently supported the United States in its efforts to secure an end to the violence, to address the humanitarian and development needs of the Palestinian people and to advance the political process in the Middle East. It is vital, despite the horrific terrorism over the past weeks and months, that we hold to the vision affirmed by the United Nations Security Council of a region where two states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side within secure and recognised borders. But an eventual peace depends on the efforts of the Palestinians and the Israelis. It has to be their peace; they have to own the peace process themselves.

We concur with President Bush that the Palestinians must take strong action against terrorism, and bringing an end to the homicide bombings would do more than anything to transform the situation in the Middle East. A state will not be gained through acts of terror. As the security situation improves, Israel should be able to withdraw from Palestinian controlled territories. Settlement activity is unhelpful also to bringing peace.

Israel’s regional neighbours must bring pressure to bear to ensure an end to the appalling acts of murder that we have witnessed over recent times and accept, as the Saudi Arabians and some other Arab states have, that the vision affirmed by the United Nations Security Council is the final settlement that will take place in the Middle East. I made these points recently to the Iranian foreign minister, and I have spoken in similar terms to representatives of Israel’s Arab neighbours. In conclusion, we welcome President Bush’s statement, and we see it as an important contribution to taking the issue of peace in the Middle East forward.

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