Address to Counter-Daesh Coalition Small Group Ministerial Meeting

  • Speech, check against delivery
02 February 2016

Thank you Minister Gentiloni and Secretary Kerry.

Today's meeting comes at a critical juncture following recent military progress in Iraq and Syria.

This is of course welcome news but now is an opportune time to review the fundamentals of our coalition effort.

I make three key points today.

First, defeating Daesh or ISIL must be our key priority - this is the coalition small group meeting committed to countering this terrorist group.

We cannot allow ourselves to be distracted from this primary goal.

Despite Daesh losing territory in Iraq and Syria, recent attacks, including in Paris, Beirut, Istanbul and Jakarta clearly demonstrate Daesh's ability to project its influence far beyond its bases in Syria and Iraq.

Daesh is fast becoming a major, if not leading, exporter of global terror. It has skillfully developed partnerships with likeminded extremist groups - in Africa, Southeast Asia, Central Asia and the broader Middle East.

Daesh continues to inspire attacks by both groups and individuals sympathetic to its brutal worldview.

We should not lose sight of this fact when looking at the complex picture in the Middle East and the various challenges in the region.

My second point is that effectively countering the Daesh narrative requires the voice of Islamic moderation to drown out the poisonous messages of intolerance, extremism and violence.

Countries in the Middle East region must play a leading role, and avoid stoking sectarian tensions.

You have a key stake in this counter narrative and your voice will resonate stronger than any Western voice with those who are vulnerable to Daesh's recruitment efforts.

The statistics show clearly that the vast majority of foreign fighters travelling to Syria and Iraq to join Daesh come from the Middle East region.

The region has a responsibility to act and we urge you to do much more - not only in countering Daesh's perverse narrative but also through a commitment to undertake a more active role in the military campaign.

Australia is making a major contribution in the fight against Daesh, with personnel deployed to train and advise the Iraqi Security Forces. We are the second largest troop contributor on the ground in Iraq.

We are taking part in air strikes against Daesh and its assets in both Iraq and Syria. We have over 750 personnel deployed in the region as part of the effort against Daesh.

Australia is working with Middle East nations and other partners in the coalition, and we will maintain our effort and commitment.

My third point is that military gains cannot be sustained without real political progress.

In Iraq, recent military momentum has created an opportunity for advancing enduring political reforms.

We encourage the efforts of Prime Minister Abadi and his government in taking forward their reconciliation agenda.

It is time to take concrete political steps to build inclusive governance in Iraq.

In Syria, we urgently need progress towards a negotiated political solution.

Australia welcomes the commencement of UN-brokered peace talks with the Syrian regime and opposition.

We call upon all Syrian parties to engage seriously in these negotiations to find a lasting solution.

Countries with influence must also continue to press parties they support to negotiate in good faith.

The killing and humanitarian suffering must stop. This cannot happen through military action alone.

The fight against Daesh is difficult and complex. We as a coalition will only prevail if we are focused on our primary objective of defeating these terrorists and remain united in that cause.

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