Julie Bishop has sought to save Australia from multibillion-dollar trade sanctions by telling Arab ambassadors there was a difference between a lowercase and an uppercase "O".
In an absurd twist to the fallout from Attorney-General George Brandis' unilateral decision to redefine long-standing Australian foreign policy, the Foreign Affairs Minister yesterday told ambassadors there was a difference between "Occupied" and "occupied".
Senator Brandis' announced on June 5 that the Government would no longer refer to East Jerusalem as "occupied" and instead use the descriptor "disputed" to avoid language "freighted with pejorative".
His pro-Israel language caused instant alarm in Muslim nations and they responded by threatening to impose trade sanctions on Australian exports worth a combined $3.5 billion. _The West Australian _understands that live animal exporters have contacted coalition backbenchers concerned over possible damage to their business.
In an emergency meeting with 23 representatives of Muslim nations yesterday, Ms Bishop reaffirmed Australia's commitment to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
She told them Australia recognised that territories annexed by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967 were occupied as stated under UN Security Council Resolution 242.
It was then, according to ambassadors, that Ms Bishop sought to argue that there was a difference between Occupied East Jerusalem and occupied East Jerusalem. But one ambassador said he remained flummoxed as to how he could explain to his Government in Arabic the difference.
Ms Bishop pledged that in future any changes to foreign policy would be announced only by herself or the Prime Minister - a promise that was perceived as a slap down of Senator Brandis.
In a letter to the Moroccan Ambassador, representing the heads of mission of Islamic and Muslim countries, Ms Bishop emphasised there had been no change to Australia's position on the Palestinian territories.
Jordan's Ambassador Rima Ahmad Alaadeen said the delegation was "encouraged" by Ms Bishop's clarification.
'There had been no change to Australia's position on the Palestinian Territories.'"Foreign Affairs Minister *Julie Bishop *