German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has embarked on a nine-day tour of Asia and Australia. The trip will also bring him to Banda Aceh, the region most affected by the tsunami disaster.
Fischer will make his second trip in one month to Southeast Asia
East Timor will be the foreign minister's first stop, making him the second foreign minister from the European Union to visit that country since it became independent of Indonesian rule in 2002.
"Germany played a very active role at the time in the country’s struggle for independence and has freed considerable resources for the rebuilding of East Timor’s infrastructure," said Walter Lindner, a spokesman for the foreign ministry. "Mr. Fischer will inform himself about the progress made so far in the reconstruction process.”
Germany played a large role in supporting East Timor's struggle for independence two years ago
The trip marks the minister's third visit to Asia in eight months, underscoring the growing economic and political importance of the region to Germany.
Fischer has stepped up his travel schedule in recent months since Germany launched a bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council as part of a proposed reform of the organization.
Plenty to discuss in Sydney
Australia, the minister's second stop, is known to be against Germany’s bid, fearing an outsized role for western Europe as both Britain and France are already permanent Council members.
"On the agenda are number of foreign policy issues to be debated with the Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and other political leaders," Lindner said. "Talks are expected to center on the political stability in Southeast Asia, as well as ongoing cooperation in reconstruction efforts for the tsunami-stricken regions.”
In New Zealand, Fischer will discuss issues related to Iraq’s post-war reconstruction. Like Germany, New Zealand was opposed to the war on Iraq, but it sent soldiers to that country to assist in the reconstruction process.
Fischer revisits tsunami devastation
Fischer will inspect aid workers' progress in areas devistated by the tsunami
The foreign minister's nine-day trip will end in Banda Aceh, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, where he’ll talk about the coordination of reconstruction work in the tsunami-stricken region and talk to German aid workers on the ground. It is Fischer's second visit in a month to areas devastated by the massive sea surges.
Germany is among the main donors to the stricken region, with the government pledging €500 million ($653 million) in aid, on top of the more than €400 million donated by the German public.The trip means the German foreign minister will miss out on Friday’s visit to Berlin by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She’s to meet briefly with German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder before moving on to Turkey, Poland and France.