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Visit To Singapore And Indonesia

MEDIA RELEASE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
ALEXANDER DOWNER


I will be visiting Singapore and Indonesia, including East Timor, from 24-31 July. From 24-28 July, I will be in Singapore to attend the 6th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the 32nd Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Post-Ministerial Conference.

These meetings represent two of the most important events on Australia's foreign policy calendar. All ASEAN Foreign Ministers and the Foreign Ministers of ASEAN's 10 dialogue partners - including the United States, Japan, China and South Korea - will be in Singapore.

The meetings will provide an excellent opportunity to discuss the major issues in our region with all key players. Such issues include recovery from the East Asian economic crisis, the continuing need for regional financial reform and political and security developments in our region. My visit coincides with some positive glimmers on the economic horizon. But the region still faces considerable challenges, primarily from the social consequences of the economic crisis. My discussions on these issues with key counterparts will reinforce Australia's commitment to, and engagement in, the
region.

The Post-Ministerial Conference includes an ASEAN-Australia bilateral meeting which will also focus on regional issues. There will be opportunities in the margins of these meetings for bilateral meetings with many of my counterpart Ministers. From Singapore, I fly to Jakarta and Dili. The Jakarta leg, 28-29 July, will enable me to re-establish contact with key political players after the Indonesian General Election and before the Presidential Election.

My aim is to register messages about Australia's long-term interests in Indonesia that apply regardless of political outcomes, and the importance of the continuity of Indonesia's economic policy direction. Calls will be made on President Habibie, the TNI Commander and Defence Minister General Wiranto and the leaders of the major political parties. Naturally the East Timor issue will be high on my agenda in Jakarta. Given the proximity of my visit to critical dates for the East Timor process, it would be opportune to address this issue in depth with Indonesian and East Timorese interlocutors, including Xanana Gusmao. My visit to Dili on 30-31 July, the first such visit by an Australian Foreign Minister, will come at a critical time and enable first-hand discussions with the UN Mission in East Timor; local civilian, police and military authorities; local political leaders from both pro-independence and pro-integration sides; church
leaders; and with the new Australian Consulate.

The visit will further demonstrate Australia's constructive role in trying to resolve the problem. We have already made a significant contribution by providing UNAMET's trust fund with $20 million, by providing 50 AFP police officers to the CIVPOL contingent (headed by an Australian, Alan Mills), plus six ADF military liaison officers and several Australians who are working for UN Headquarters and as UN Volunteers.

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