Sat, Nov 17, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Australian official chides Mahathir

Reuters, SYDNEY

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg yesterday said that Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has a history of anti-Jewish statements, in an escalating war of words over the possibility Australia might move its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison proposed the embassy move last month during a local election campaign, sparking concern from Indonesia and Malaysia.

“The Malaysian prime minister has form,” Frydenberg said in a radio interview. “He has called Jews hook-nosed people. He has questioned the number of people that have been killed in the Holocaust.”

The comments came after Mahathir brought up the issue of moving the embassy with Morrison during a meeting at the ASEAN summit on Thursday in Singapore.

“I pointed out that in dealing with terrorism, one has to know the causes,” Mahathir told reporters afterward, Australian media reported. “Adding to the cause for terrorism is not going to be helpful.”

Indonesia has also expressed concern over the embassy review and suggested it might upset plans for a free-trade agreement with Australia, although Morrison has said the issues were not conflated during talks he had with Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Morrison’s embassy announcement came just before a key by-election for a seat that has a large Jewish community and Morrison’s Liberal National government was desperate to win to keep its majority in parliament.

The seat was lost anyway, leaving the government ruling with the cooperation of independent lawmakers.

Speaking yesterday, Morrison confirmed that Mahathir had raised the subject of the embassy, but said that only “Australia determines Australian foreign policy.”

“I think what Josh said today was filling in the history of his [Mahathir’s] record on various issues over time,” Morrison told reporters on a visit to Darwin, where he was due to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “Make no mistake: I will not have our policy dictated by those outside the country.”

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