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Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

1.1.5 South and West Asia, Middle East and Africa

Overview

The department played a lead role in shaping key international decisions on security transition in Afghanistan, announced at the Chicago Summit in May 2012, and on the commencement of transition in Uruzgan.

We continued to coordinate Australia's inter-agency engagement with Pakistan, including defence training, law enforcement and counter-terrorism capacity building, strategic dialogue and development assistance.

The department led the first three rounds of negotiations for the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement with India and supported business-to-business links between Australia and India through the first CEO Forum in March 2012.

In line with Australia's interests in seeing the emergence of a stable and democratic Middle East and North Africa region, we sustained our intensified engagement with Egypt and Tunisia and supported transition in Libya. Senator Carr undertook the first visit to Morocco and Algeria by an Australian Foreign Minister in June 2012. The department led the Government's response to continuing unrest and violence in Syria.

The department continued its strong support for a negotiated two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian Territories. We continued to expand engagement with the Gulf, including through support to the first visit by an Australian Foreign Minister to Oman in June 2012. Engagement was significantly enhanced with key regional institutions, including the Arab League, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and Gulf Cooperation Council.

Australia enhanced its diplomatic presence in Africa, reflecting our growing commercial and political interests in the region. The department supported increased engagement with African leaders, including at CHOGM, and strengthened business and commercial engagement. We continued to shape Australia's response to the evolving political situation in Zimbabwe and supported international efforts to address the situations in Somalia and Sudan/South Sudan.

Afghanistan

The department worked to advance Australia's interests in Afghanistan, and to support Afghanistan's stability and security.

The department played a key role in coordinating the whole-of-government effort through our embassy in Kabul and the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Uruzgan province. Through our staff in the PRT—including the Senior Civilian Representative—the department coordinated civilian efforts in Uruzgan, promoted peace and reintegration initiatives, and created programs and plans to support development. The department continued to participate in Australia's detainee monitoring efforts, which ensure Australian-apprehended detainees are treated in accordance with Australia's international obligations.

The department negotiated a Comprehensive Long-Term Partnership between Australia and Afghanistan, which was signed by the Prime Minister and Afghanistan's President Karzai at the NATO/ISAF Chicago Summit in May 2012. During the Summit, the Prime Minister announced a significant increase in Australia's aid commitment to Afghanistan, and our financial support for the Afghan National Security Forces following transition.

Over the past year, the department played a lead role in shaping key international decisions on the security transition in Afghanistan, announced at the Chicago Summit, and on the commencement of transition in Uruzgan.

The department supported the Prime Minister's visit to Afghanistan in November 2011 and the Governor-General's visit in April 2012. The Prime Minister opened the new Australian embassy chancery building in Kabul. The department supported participation by Australia's Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mr Ric Smith, in the International Contact Group on Afghanistan meetings and in the Istanbul Process for Regional Reconciliation Conference in June 2012. Through this participation, Australia helped shape international approaches to Afghanistan, including election planning, reconciliation initiatives and the establishment of a regional process for supporting Afghanistan's development.

Personal Profile:

Adrian Lochrin

Photo of Adrian Lochrin

Adrian Lochrin is head of the Uruzgan Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). Numbering some 180 civilian and military personnel, the PRT includes representatives from Australia, the United States and Slovakia. As head of the PRT, Adrian coordinates the PRT's political and development engagement in Uruzgan. Through stabilising communities and building administrative capacity, basic services and essential infrastructure, the efforts of the Australian-led Uruzgan PRT will assist the Government of Afghanistan to continue to develop Uruzgan beyond transition. Australian civilian PRT members routinely conduct meetings off-base, throughout the province, with support provided by the PRT's Australian Defence Force and US military elements.

In a typical week, Adrian holds discussions with the provincial Governor, tribal leaders, and development partners, as well as with other coalition civilian and military leaders, ensuring that the PRT's activities are well coordinated with Afghan and coalition partners alike. A unique posting experience, serving within the PRT provides Australian civilians from DFAT and AusAID the opportunity to work in a challenging and complex civil-military environment. Adrian's previous posting was to Port Moresby. Prior to joining the Department in 2006, he held positions in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Department of Defence.

Pakistan

The department advanced Australia's interests in continued engagement with Pakistan, including a lead role in the coordination of whole-of-government activity and policy development. The department facilitated a visit by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to Australia for CHOGM in October 2011. In June 2012, the department hosted Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Jalil Jilani for senior officials' talks on the Australia-Pakistan relationship.

In March 2012, Australia and Pakistan examined further trade ties when the department hosted the Australia–Pakistan Joint Trade Committee meeting. A delegation of Pakistani parliamentarians visited Australia in June 2012 to forge links with the Australian parliament and to learn more about the Australian federal system.

The department also provided support for continued strategic dialogue, including through support to the Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan and the Department of Defence-led Australia–Pakistan one and a half-track Security Dialogue held in Rawalpindi in November 2011.

India

The department continued to add depth to the Australia–India Strategic Partnership agreed by our Prime Ministers in 2009.

In 2011, India was Australia's fourth-largest export destination. Two-way goods and services trade totalled $20.3 billion. Indian investment interest in Australia increased dramatically over the period. Approvals totalled $11 billion (mainly in energy and resources development), up from $1.5 billion the previous year.

The department facilitated the inaugural Australia–India CEO Forum in New Delhi, in March 2012. Chaired by Mr Lindsay Fox AC (Linfox) and Naveen Jindal (Jindal Steel and Power), the Forum addressed ways to facilitate bilateral trade and investment. India was also the partner for Australia's major IT fair, CeBIT, in May.

The department achieved good progress in negotiations for a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, with the third round of talks completed in May 2012.

Government-to-government links are strong and the department facilitated ministerial and senior official visits in both directions over the past year, expanding the dialogue between India and Australia on key bilateral, regional and global issues.

Working with state and territory governments, the department promoted international student safety and welfare. Indian student visas granted increased by 43 per cent to 25 700 (our second-largest international source) in the past year.

The Australia–India Council (AIC) commemorated its 20th Anniversary with an exhibition and publication of Kindness/Udarta, which produced a record of AIC supported cultural exchanges (also see Public information services and public diplomacy 1.1.13).

Figure 12. Australia's trade in goods and services with India (a)

Figure 12. Australia's trade in goods and services with India

Photo of The then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Rudd, and Indian Minister of External Affairs, Mr Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna, at the 11th Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation's Council of Ministers meeting in Bangalore, November 2011.

The then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Rudd, and Indian Minister of External Affairs, Mr Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna, at the 11th Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation's Council of Ministers meeting in Bangalore, November 2011.

Table 5. Australia's trade in goods and services with countries in South Asia and the GCC (a)

 
Exports
Exports
 
Imports
Imports
 
Goods and services
2010
2011
Trend growth 2006–2011
2010
2011
Trend growth 2006–2011
 
$m
$m
%
$m
$m
%
India
19,529
17,386
13.1
2,620
2,952
11.5
Bangladesh (b)
582
579
31.0
143
244
50.1
Pakistan (b)
540
414
6.6
163
173
2.5
Other South Asia (b) (c)
265
286
8.5
126
123
5.7
Total South Asia
20,916
18,665
13.2
3,052
3,492
11.8
United Arab Emirates (b)
2,147
2,244
-2.9
2,230
4,133
17.9
Saudi Arabia (b)
1,564
1,531
-7.8
406
387
-22.2
Kuwait (b)
507
613
1.8
366
428
11.7
Oman (b)
477
418
7.5
35
62
101.1
Qatar (b)
287
407
15.0
501
463
13.2
Bahrain (b) (d)
175
165
5.7
47
108
-13.0
Total GCC (b)
5,157
5,380
-2.6
3,584
5,582
7.4

(a) Goods data on a recorded trade basis, services data on a balance of payments basis.

(b) Goods data only. Services data is not published by the ABS for these countries.

(c) Other South Asia comprises Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

(d) Excludes exports of alumina (aluminium oxide) to Bahrain which are confidential in ABS trade statistics.

Based on DFAT STARS database and ABS catalogue 5368.0.55.004.

Central Asia

As growing energy powers and neighbours to an Afghanistan in transition, the Central Asian region (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) is increasingly important to Australia's interests.

In 2012, the department facilitated the first visit of an Australian parliamentary delegation to Kazakhstan in April. Inaugural senior officials' talks were held with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in April and with Tajikistan in May.

Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka

The department continued building links with Bangladesh in our 40th year of diplomatic relations. This included advancing trade and commercial interests, with two-way merchandise trade reaching $823 million. The department actively supported AusAID's growing development assistance program ($92 million in 2011–12).

Our relationship with Bhutan is based primarily on development assistance, with 141 scholarships provided for Bhutanese students in 2012. An inaugural bilateral policy dialogue was held in January 2012. Special Envoy, Mr Tim Fischer, participated in Bhutan's High Level Meeting on Happiness and Wellbeing, in New York in April. The Australian Volunteers Program for Bhutan was launched to facilitate greater people-to-people links.

The department played an active role supporting the Maldives following a transfer of power in February 2012. The Secretary of DFAT participated in a Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) fact-finding mission to the country. Senator Carr (as Vice-Chair of CMAG) supported a Commonwealth approach to addressing the situation during CMAG meetings.

Photo of The Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Mr Marles, attends a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit in the Maldives in November 2011.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Mr Marles, attends a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit in the Maldives in November 2011.

Our embassy in Kathmandu continued to monitor the transition in post-conflict Nepal. To support the democratic process, the department assisted the Australian Electoral Commission to open an Electoral Education and Information Centre in May 2012.

The department closely monitored developments in Sri Lanka, advocating political reconciliation and accountability for alleged human rights violations. Australia co-sponsored a UN Human Rights Council resolution calling on Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission report, released in December 2011.

Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation

The department played an integral role in fostering cooperation through the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC). Then Foreign Minister, Mr Rudd, became the first Australian Foreign Minister to attend an IOR-ARC Council of Ministers' meeting in November 2011, when Australia took over as Vice-Chair of IOR-ARC (Australia becomes Chair in late 2013).

Australia took forward regional projects on trade and customs facilitation, fisheries cooperation and seasonal climate forecasting. This included hosting an IOR-ARC Trade Policy Workshop in May.

Photo of The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Carr, and the Foreign Minister of Oman, Mr Yousef bin Alawi bin Abdullah, at the Oman Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Muscat, during the first-ever visit to Oman by an Australian Foreign Minister in June 2012.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Carr, and the Foreign Minister of Oman, Mr Yousef bin Alawi bin Abdullah, at the Oman Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Muscat, during the first-ever visit to Oman by an Australian Foreign Minister in June 2012.

Middle East and North Africa

In line with Australia's interests to see the emergence of a stable and democratic Middle East and North Africa region, the department enhanced its engagement with countries undergoing political transition. We continued our leadership of Government efforts in support of Libya, including through participation in Libya Contact Group Meetings; support to Libyan students in Australia; implementation of autonomous sanctions measures; and in supporting a Foreign Ministerial visit to Tripoli in December 2011. Our engagement was strengthened by agreement to hold regular senior officials' talks with Libya as a means to advance mutual interests. In enhancing Australia's bilateral relations with key North African countries, the department also supported the first-ever visit by an Australian Foreign Minister to Algeria and Morocco in June 2012 and led inaugural senior officials' talks with Tunisia as well as senior officials' talks with Egypt.

In leading the Government's response to continuing unrest and violence in Syria, the department participated in all meetings of the Friends of the Syrian People and implemented robust autonomous sanctions measures to pressure the Assad regime to end the bloodshed and commit to a durable, inclusive political resolution to the conflict. The department continues to work closely with AusAID in delivering humanitarian assistance to Syrians affected by the conflict.

Reflecting the depth of our bilateral relationship with Lebanon, the department supported the visit of the Lebanese President, Michel Sleiman, to Australia in April 2012, the first by a Lebanese head of State.

Personal Profile:

Pauline Okai-Davies

Photo of Pauline Okai-Davies

As First Secretary and Consul at the Australian Embassy in Abu Dhabi, Pauline Okai-Davies works to promote Australia's growing bilateral relationships with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar – important partners for Australia in managing defence, security, trade and political relationships in the region.

Pauline had the added responsibility of coordinating high-level visits by the Prime Minister, Governor-General and several Ministers during the year. The embassy's consular workload is also significant, due to large numbers of Australians using one of the two major airlines of the UAE for transits to Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

"I arrived in Abu Dhabi during the 'Arab Spring', a time when our embassy played an important role in providing consular and passport services to Australians caught up in the turmoil. Ensuring we take a coordinated approach with other posts in the region in assisting Australian citizens is central to our contingency planning and the provision of consular and passport services."

We continued our strong support for a negotiated two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian Territories, including through engagement with AusAID in providing targeted budget support for Palestinian institution-building. The department supported the first-ever visit by the Director-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to Australia, which culminated in the signing of a $90 million five-year partnership agreement with UNRWA. Australia's substantial financial support for Palestinian development was recognised through an invitation of membership to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) in September 2011, a 15-member committee that serves as the principal policy-level coordination mechanism for development assistance to the Palestinian people. The department together with AusAID represented Australia at AHLC meetings in September 2011 and March 2012.

In support of our growing strategic, commercial and people-to-people links with the Arab Gulf States, the department facilitated several high-level visits to the region, including a state visit by the Governor-General to the UAE in April 2012. The first-ever visit by an Australian Foreign Minister, Senator Carr, to Oman in June 2012 provided impetus to our growing ties and followed the appointment of an Australian honorary consul to Oman in December 2011. The Foreign Minister's visit to Saudi Arabia in June 2012 reaffirmed the value we place on engagement with this country which plays an important role in regional and global affairs.

The department also supported incoming visits to Australia from the Gulf, including by the Saudi Minister for Petroleum and Mineral Resources; the UAE Foreign Minister to CHOGM; and the UAE Trade Minister who delivered the keynote address at the second annual Business Forum and Expo of the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry in June 2012. We provided extensive practical support to the second Australian Gulf Council business mission to the region (Oman, Qatar and the UAE) in early 2012.

We advanced our relations with Iraq through annual bilateral senior officials' talks in Baghdad in November 2011, and our hosting of a visit by the Chair of Iraq's Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee.

Reflecting Australia's continuing deep concern about the nature of Iran's nuclear program, the department implemented additional autonomous sanction measures to urge Iran to comply with relevant United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions and cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency. We supported continued dialogue with Iran on issues of mutual concern including Afghanistan, people smuggling and counter-narcotics.

Photo of Despite ongoing security challenges, International Women's Day 2012 assumed special significance in Baghdad when the Australian Ambassador, Ms Lyndall Sachs (fifth from the right), hosted the Embassy's first-ever get together of around 40 prominent Iraqi women.

Despite ongoing security challenges, International Women's Day 2012 assumed special significance in Baghdad when the Australian Ambassador, Ms Lyndall Sachs (fifth from the right), hosted the Embassy's first-ever get together of around 40 prominent Iraqi women.

The department continued to strengthen its engagement with the key institutions of the Middle East and North Africa. The signing of the Australia–Arab Dialogue Agreement with the Arab League in September 2011 was consolidated in inaugural senior officials' talks with the Arab League in February 2012 in Cairo. We advanced cooperation and built on outcomes from the regular Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)–Australian Foreign Ministers Strategic Dialogue through senior officials' talks with the GCC in Riyadh in June 2012.

The first official visit by an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Secretary-General to Australia, in February 2012, concluded with the agreement of a bilateral Framework of Cooperation reflecting our interest in increased links with this key institution, representing the collective voice of the global Muslim community.

Africa

The department supported the strengthening of Australia's diplomatic relations with Africa. Australia announced it would open a new embassy in Dakar, Senegal, which will be Australia's first resident diplomatic representation in French-speaking West Africa and will help support our growing commercial and diplomatic interests in that region. Australia appointed Honorary Consuls in Angola, Botswana, Namibia and Tanzania over the past year, helping to strengthen business links with those countries. Australia held senior officials' talks with South Africa in October 2011 in Pretoria.

Supported by the department, Mr Rudd attended the 18th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in January 2012, continuing our pattern of growing engagement with the African Union. He also inaugurated the Australian Embassy chancery project in Ethiopia and signed a memorandum of cooperation with Mozambique to enhance bilateral relations. The department supported the hosting of a large number of African Heads of Government, ministers and their delegations in Perth in October 2011 for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and the Commonwealth Business Forum which helped strengthen business ties. In addition, the department provided support to the Africa Down Under conference in Perth in September 2011 and Mining Indaba in Cape Town in February 2012. We also supported the visit to Australia by the President of Gabon, Mr Ali Bongo Ondimba, in March 2012.

Photo of The then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Rudd, and then Chairman of the African Union Commission, Dr Jean Ping, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, January 2012. Photo: Jiro Ose

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Rudd, and then Chairman of the African Union Commission, Dr Jean Ping, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, January 2012. Photo: Jiro Ose

The department led Australia's response to the evolving political situation in Zimbabwe by continuing to advocate for full implementation of the Global Political Agreement, adjusting our sanctions in line with developments on the ground, and attending various 'Friends of Zimbabwe' meetings. We also supported regional and global efforts to address the situations in Somalia and Sudan/South Sudan and other areas of peace and security concern in Africa.

The Government supported the emergence of a newly independent state in South Sudan. Working with the international community, we supported the referendum on independence, including the participation of people in Australia eligible to vote. We moved quickly to recognise South Sudan as an independent state and to establish diplomatic relations.

Personal Profile:

Lisa Filipetto

As Australia's first Ambassador to the African Union, Lisa Filipetto is responsible for building relations with this continental institution. As Ambassador to Ethiopia, Lisa works to strengthen Australia's relations with the second most populous country in Africa.

"It is a great privilege to be building Australia's relations with the African Union and its member states at a time when Africa is rising. Seeing how Africa works to promote economic and social development, regional integration and peace and security, including on such issues as Somalia and Sudan, gives me a sense of history in the making. Ethiopia hosts over 350 000 refugees, and visiting refugee camps on the borders with Somalia and Eritrea (which Australia helps to support) is a very humbling experience. Travelling through the breathtaking scenery in Ethiopia and meeting people who have a fierce pride in their country and ancient cultures is one of the benefits of living in Addis Ababa."

Photo of Ambassador to Ethiopia, Ms Lisa Filipetto (centre), with awardees of Australian Scholarships at a pre-departure briefing for the 2012 intake, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, October 2011.

Ambassador to Ethiopia, Ms Lisa Filipetto (centre), with awardees of Australian Scholarships at a pre-departure briefing for the 2012 intake, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, October 2011.

Lisa joined the department as a graduate trainee in 1985. She has been posted to Brunei, Ireland, Vietnam, Cambodia and Kenya. As Consul-General in Ho Chi Minh City she built business, development and veteran relationships with southern Vietnam from 1997–2001. Lisa was Ambassador to Cambodia from 2004 to 2007, during which the tribunal to bring Khmer Rouge leaders to trial was established. While based in Kenya as High Commissioner from 2007 to 2010, she became Australia's first Ambassador to Burundi, Djibouti and Rwanda as well as being Ambassador to Ethiopia and Eritrea and High Commissioner to Tanzania and Uganda. She took up her appointment as resident Ambassador to Ethiopia in September 2011, where she has been establishing the new Embassy.

Photo of Ambassador to Afghanistan, Mr Paul Foley, Governor of Uruzgan Province, Amir Mohammad Akhundzada, and Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mr Ric Smith AO PSM, in Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan, in June 2012.

Ambassador to Afghanistan, Mr Paul Foley, Governor of Uruzgan Province, Amir Mohammad Akhundzada, and Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mr Ric Smith AO PSM, in Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan, in June 2012.

Outlook

The department will continue to support the democratic processes underway in a number of countries and Australia's growing development assistance programs across these regions.

The department will be actively engaged in managing the transition of Australia's role in Afghanistan. We will continue to consolidate Australia's relations with Pakistan, including through Australia's support to Pakistan ahead of its upcoming general elections.

The department will continue to support ministerial and high-level visits between Australia and India to add further depth to the strategic partnership between the two countries. We will continue to work with other countries of the Indian Ocean rim to foster regional integration and cooperation on issues including regional security, fisheries management and trade facilitation.

The department will continue to support international efforts, particularly through sanctions, to persuade Iran to comply with UNSC resolutions on its nuclear program. We will also work with the international community, including through the Group of Friends of the Syrian People, to seek a peaceful, durable and inclusive resolution to the conflict in Syria.

The department will work to strengthen relations with Africa, building on our enhanced diplomatic presence, and to promote growing trade and investment.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade