Australian gov't rejects criticism on neglecting Asia-Pacific regions

16:00, April 11, 2011      

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Australian federal government on Monday hit back at criticisms that Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd is neglecting Australia's Pacific neighborhood.

Earlier on Sunday, opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop accused Rudd of being too preoccupied with events in distant Africa and the Middle East.

She said Rudd has not visited any Pacific Islands since becoming foreign minister, but he has visited Africa, the Middle East and Europe several times.

Bishop said Australia's relationships with countries such as Papua New Guinea and Fiji were suffering as a result.

According to Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs Richard Marles, the opposition's criticism that Rudd has forgotten about Australia's interests in the region are rubbish.

"I completely reject that," Marles told Australia Associated Press on Monday.

"Everything I do is done in conjunction with Kevin and he is a man who is very focused on the Pacific region, who has been committed both as prime minister and foreign minister to making sure we have a very strong presence within the region."

Marles said the Pacific was a top priority for the Australian federal government's foreign policy, and he was sure that Rudd would visit the region "at some point".

Source: Xinhua
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