Australia connected to Middle East despite distance: ambassador

The ambassador described bilateral relations between Turkey and Australia as excellent, but “not as substantial as they ought to be.”

Australia connected to Middle East despite distance: ambassador

World Bulletin/News Desk                        

Australian Ambassador to Turkey Ian Biggs said on Monday that Australia is inescapably involved in the Middle East, not only because of the large diaspora it has from every country in the region, but also due to its commitment to human rights.

Talking to Turkish press at the Australia-Turkey Dialogue Workshop in Akçakoca, organized by the Abant Platform, Biggs emphasized the “excellent bilateral relations” between Turkey and Australia and expressed his desire for more trade and investment between the two countries.

Ambassador Biggs explained Australia's engagement in the Middle East despite a geographical distance, saying that there are “many Australians who feel a strong commitment to a peaceful outcome to all of the problems of the Middle East.” He further referred to Australia's “strong commitment to human rights and democratic entitlement to the peoples of the region.”

The ambassador reported the Australian government has contributed $60 million in aid to Syrian refugees.

Stating that Australia has a “public that understands the importance of global engagement,” Ambassador Biggs pointed out the current coalitions that his country is a part of in Iraq and Afghanistan.

However, Australia's top diplomat in Turkey made it clear that “there is no way that the Australian government will be involved militarily in Syria or broker peace.” Biggs referred to the negative consequences as well of direct involvement by external countries in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Although he described what is happening in Syria as tragic -- as a diplomat who served in Damascus in the past -- Ambassador Biggs said in regards to Syria that “caution is entirely appropriate.” Biggs emphasized that Australia will continue to work for a political solution. “We can contribute to every effort by the UN system, by the Arab League and by regional players such as Turkey, through providing humanitarian assistance,” Biggs added.

The ambassador described bilateral relations between Turkey and Australia as excellent, but “not as substantial as they ought to be.” Biggs pointed to “the common history in the Gallipoli conflict” as “a very unusual basis for friendship.”

Biggs said the second basis of friendship for the two countries is the large number of Turkish immigrants in Australia who moved to the country in the 1960s and '70s. The ambassador said the experience of Turkish immigrants in his country is positive, adding that they are “a proud part of the Australian multicultural community.” He underlined that Australia is happy to see Turks maintain their ties with Turkey as well.

Australia and Turkey will host G20 summits in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Ambassador Biggs considers the international club an opportunity for Australia and Turkey to strengthen bilateral ties.

Furthermore, 2015 will mark the centennial of the ANZAC landing in Gallipoli, which will have a “great emotional resonance” for Australians, said Biggs. The year 2015 will also be celebrated as the year of Turkey in Australia, and vice versa, to increase cultural and human interaction between the two countries.

Commenting on the Australia-Turkey Dialogue Workshop, Ambassador Biggs said it was one of a few of its kind, stating that Turkey and Australia do similar things by way of dialogue in different regions of the world.

Abant Platform held first Australia-Turkey dialogue meeting

The Abant Platform, in cooperation with the Australian Intercultural Society and La Trobe University, held the first dialogue meeting between the two countries. The host of the workshop, President of the Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV) Mustafa Yeşil, defined the meeting as an “endeavor to promote the wider importance of dialogue between cultures, countries, religions and civilizations.” Yeşil emphasized that a “dialogue-centered engagement can inform the domestic and foreign policies of the two countries.”

The Abant Platform, an initiative of the GYV, brought together leading scholars, policy-makers and opinion leaders from Australia and Turkey to engage with the two key themes “Australia, Turkey, and Peace in the Wider Middle East” and “Australia and Turkey Embracing Cultural Diversity.”

The GYV was founded in 1994 to promote peaceful coexistence and dialogue within Turkey and beyond. The basic aim of the foundation is to contribute to Turkish society by enriching “the culture of living together.”

Last Mod: 07 Mayıs 2013, 10:58
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