Australia Eager to Enhance Cooperation

Australia Eager to Enhance CooperationAustralia Eager to Enhance Cooperation

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop expressed her country's readiness to take advantage of ample opportunities for cooperation with Iran, which have emerged after Tehran reached the nuclear deal with world powers.

"We look forward to enhancing commercial opportunities following the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [the formal name of the deal] and the lifting of most international sanctions on Iran," she said in a media release posted on the website of the Australian Foreign Ministry on Friday to introduce the next Australian ambassador to Iran, Ian Biggs.    

"Australia values its longstanding relationship with Iran and we have maintained an embassy in Tehran since 1968," the statement said.

The volume of two-way trade peaked at around $1 billion in 2010. However, intensification of the anti-Iran sanctions cut bilateral trade to about $360 million in 2014 and 2015.

The removal of nuclear sanctions after the implementation of the nuclear deal on January 16 has encouraged many countries, including Australia, to upgrade economic relations with Tehran.

The statement added that "Australia has significant reasons for engaging Iran on issues of shared interest and concern, including the fight against terrorism in Syria and Iraq, as well as the common challenges of people smuggling and illegal migration."

People smuggling has been a touchy subject of discussions between Iranian and Australian officials in recent years. Almost 9,000 Iranian asylum seekers are in Australia that does not extend any legal basis for their stay and wants to deport them to Iran.

But Iran has frequently said it will not take back citizens who are forced by the Australian government to leave.   The statement said Biggs has previously served as ambassador to Turkey and Saudi Arabia, chargé d'affaires in Baghdad and deputy head of mission to Austria and Syria.  Biggs is expected to take up his appointment in July 2016, according to the statement, replacing the current Australian ambassador in Tehran, James Foley, who took office in 2013.

Australian officials announced in March that their trade office in Tehran, which was closed in 2010, will be reopened from the second half of 2016 to help boost Australian export and present investment opportunities to Australian businesses.