ABC AM program, New York - interview with Chris Uhlmann

  • Transcript, E&OE
23 September 2014

CHRIS UHLMANN Australian intelligence agencies believe an internetmessage inciting Islamic State followers to kill Australians is genuine. Theorganisation has posted a call to arms, urging supporters to kill any citizenfrom the coalition of countries being formed to battle the group. Julie Bishopis the Foreign Minister and she's in New York ahead of UN Security Councilmeetings on Iraq and Syria later this week.

Julie Bishop, Islamic Statemilitants have posted online threats urging their supporters to killAustralians and anyone really whose country is involved in the internationalcoalition against it. Isn't a furious and hysterical response just giving thegroup the publicity it craves?

JULIEBISHOP Ouragencies are treating this threat as genuine and it's quite apparent that ISILis prepared to take on anyone who doesn't share its views. So, we are a threat,not because of what we are prepared to do to combat ISIL, but because of who weare. ISIL is killing Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, Christians, they're killing aidworkers, journalists, so no one is safe in their presence. That's why we're socommitted to containing and degrading and destroying ISIL as far as we can, incooperation with other countries.

CHRIS UHLMANN You've been speaking to Arab League nations in New York.What are they going to contribute to this fight?

JULIEBISHOP TheArab states have already met. They have committed to something called theJeddah Communique. That means that they are prepared to support the IraqiGovernment, they are prepared to take on ISIL and its ilk through military,political and other means, starving ISIL of funds and foreign fighters andresources. I've been speaking specifically to the foreign ministers of SaudiArabia, Kuwait, Qatar the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Turkey, I've met withthe Gulf Cooperation Council, the Arab League, and there is universalcondemnation of ISIL and there is a universal commitment to working incooperation to stop this threat from spreading beyond the Middle East and, mostcertainly, containing it and destroying it in Iraq and Syria.

CHRIS UHLMANN And yet the private cashed up citizens of Saudi Arabiaand Qatar have provided finance for Islamic State.

JULIEBISHOP Weare holding a meeting called a global counter-terrorism forum tomorrow. It'sbeing co-hosted by the United States and Turkey and we will be focussing onprecisely those issues: the funding of terrorism, this practice of kidnappingfor ransom. We will be looking at ways of countering violent extremism, incountering terrorism wherever we find it, but specifically focussing on thethreat posed by ISIL in Syria and Iraq and it needs a commitment from allcountries to starve ISIL of funds. I think that there's general recognitionthat that must be a priority for all nations.

CHRIS UHLMANN But how can you trust these states? Their citizens have along history of funding anti-Western terror groups like al-Qaeda and theTaliban and they have also funded Islamic State.

JULIEBISHOP Thistime they see ISIL as a real threat to them, because ISIL is notdiscriminating, ISIL doesn't recognise boundaries, it doesn't recognisegroupings; it will kill anyone in its wake whom it believes does not commit toits world view, which is perverse, brutal and barbaric. So, I think that theMiddle East has recognised what an insidious threat that ISIL has turned out tobe and we must continue to work to build this coalition to destroy thestructure of ISIL, to contain it and help the Iraqi Government specificallytake back the territory that ISIL has claimed.

CHRIS UHLMANN You mentioned the complexities – 130,000 Kurds havepoured across the Syrian border into Turkey in the last four days and they'refleeing Islamic State militants, and yet Turkey, a NATO ally, is not yet a partof the international coalition.

JULIEBISHOP Turkeyis certainly working behind the scenes. I've met with the Turkish ForeignMinister. They are bearing considerable burden in the number of refugees whoare pouring into Turkey, but so is Lebanon and so is Jordan. So, this is aregional issue of mammoth proportions. Australia has been prepared tocontribute in the past and will continue to do so. This is an enormoushumanitarian crisis. There are millions of displaced people, people looking forsupport, and that's why it's so important for us to back the new Iraqi Governmentas it seeks to struggle with this enormous crisis that it's confronting.

CHRIS UHLMANN But isn't what we're seeing on the border with Turkey andSyria a proof of the case that you can't confront IS in Iraq alone?

JULIEBISHOP Thecountries that I've been talking to are intending to confront ISIL whereverthey see it, and indeed, the terms of the debate that President Obama hascalled for on Wednesday, refer to foreign terrorist fighters, wherever theyare.

CHRIS UHLMANN You are clearly, though, intending to join this fight,aren't you? The Defence Minister, David Johnston, is in Baghdad. Why is hethere?

JULIEBISHOP He'sin Baghdad to meet with the new members of the Iraqi Government. If we were totake part in an effort, it would be at the invitation of and request of theIraqi Government and it's important that we meet with them and talk to themabout their needs and what they can realistically expect of countries and,also, to gauge the nature of the risks involved. Australia will not do thislightly. We will get as much information as we can, we will consider what is aclear and proportionate role, we will consider what timeframe is required, whatresources and assets we can reasonably contribute, and then we will make a decision.It will be discussed in our National Security Committee, it will be discussedin our Cabinet, but we have to have an understanding of what the IraqiGovernment is expecting and what challenges it faces.

CHRIS UHLMANN Julie Bishop, thank you.


Media enquiries