Sunday, 30 April, 2017

Australia lowers official travel warning for Iran

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Australia has just lowered its travel warning for Iran – potentially putting a trip to the Islamic Republic on a holiday bucket list for keen travelers, Australian media reported on Monday.

Previously Australians had been told to “reconsider their need to travel” to Iran, but the warning has now been lowered to “exercise a high degree of caution”.

The decision will be seen as a further sign of warming ties between the West and Iran after the landmark nuclear bargain struck this year.

The Coalition is also keen to convince Tehran to accept the return of thousands of Iranian asylum seekers that travelled by boat to Australia but are considered unlikely to be granted refugee status.

Australian foreign Minister Julie Bishop made a rare visit to Iran in April in a bid to strike a deal on the return of failed asylum seekers, and also agreed to share sensitive intelligence on the fight against ISIL extremists in neighboring Iraq and Syria.
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News spread quickly of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s trip to a bazaar in Tehran in April, where western politicians are a rare sight. Photo: Andrew Meares

Labor had been critical of dealing with Iran, and of reports in June the travel advice to the country could be lowered.

The official travel advice from the Foreign Affairs department was changed on Monday and still cautions Australians in Iran not to travel to border areas with Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

A spokeswoman said the lowering of the level of advice reflected the official assessment of the current safety and security environment in Iran.

“As with all travel, we recommend Australians subscribe to the country travel advice, register their travel, and purchase appropriate travel insurance,” the spokeswoman said.

Iran has been a holiday destination – especially the picturesque central city of Isfahan – but “ongoing regional tensions” had meant people were officially counselled to reconsider travelling since 2012, the second-highest level after “do not travel”.

Iran is now ranked along with other Middle East countries Israel, Jordan and Kuwait for people to exercise caution, while tourists are urged to reconsider travel to Saudi Arabia, and not to go to Iraq, Syria or Yemen.

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Foreign Affairs minister Julie Bishop toured a bazaar in Tehran Iran after a day of meetings in April. Photos: Andrew Meares

Campbell Fuller from the Insurance Council of Australia said the decision to lower the travel warning was unlikely to have any impact on travel insurance.

“Most insurers exclude claims relating to terrorism or civil war, and some exclude claims relating to natural disasters,” Mr Fuller said.

“Policies usually require travelers to take appropriate action to avoid or minimize claims, including keeping abreast of changing circumstances through media reports and government or other official warnings.”

“This means that if policyholders do travel to countries or regions where there are known high risks, claims directly connected to those hazards may not be covered.”

Earlier, France and the United Kingdom have relaxed travel advice for their citizens following the historic July nuclear deal. The U.K. reopened its embassy in Tehran in August after a four-year closure.

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