Doorstop - Melbourne

  • Transcript, E&OE

JULIEBISHOP: TheJoint Investigation Team includingAustralia, released findings overnight that the BUK missile that was deployedto bring down Malaysian Airline MH17 on the 17th July 2014 belongedto the Russian army – the 53rd anti-aircraft military brigade. Thisbuilt on findings that the BUK missile had been transported from Russia intoeastern Ukraine and was deployed to bring down the passenger jet and thenreturned to Russia immediately that same day. Based on these findings the onlyreasonable conclusion that we can now draw is that Russia was directly involvedin the bringing down of the Malaysian Airlines MH17 which killed 298 passengersand crew including 38 Australians.

Australia and the Netherlands have now informed the Russian Federationthat we hold it responsible under international law for its role in thebringing down of MH17. Australia and the Netherlands have requested Russia toenter into negotiations to open up a dialogue about its conduct and to seekreparations. We now call on Russia to comply with the unanimous UN SecurityCouncil resolution of the 21st of July 2014 whereby it required all Statesto fully cooperate in the efforts to establish accountability for the downingof MH17. Russia as a permanent five member of the UN Security Council has aparticular responsibility to cooperate to determine accountability.

Russia must now cease its campaign of misinformation and its efforts todiscredit the legitimacy of the Joint Investigation Team and its findings. Itsconduct and its role in bringing down MH17 showed a gross disregard forinternational norms and standards and its conduct is utterly unacceptable.

JOURNALIST: How doyour comments today – how significant are they compared to your response justyesterday?

JULIEBISHOP: Todaywe have confirmed that we hold the Russian Federation responsible for its rolein the bringing down of MH17 under international law. This is a claim of stateresponsibility for its involvement in the bringing down of the passenger jetwhich killed 298 civilians - 298 passengers and crew - including 38Australians.

JOURNALIST: What are the ramifications ofthis conclusion for Australia and its relationship with Russia?

JULIE BISHOP: Wehave said from the outset that we would hold the perpetrators of this atrocityto account. And we were part of the Joint Investigation Team for almost fouryears now and we will continue to pursue this matter to obtain justice for thevictims and the families of those who are still grieving of the loss of theirloved ones. We have already supported the national Dutch prosecution effort. Wehave provided $50 million in the most recent Budget to ensure that the familiesof the victims can take part in the proceedings. This is a separate but complementaryissue that is holding the Russian Federation to account as a State responsiblefor its role under international law.

JOURNALIST: You've called on Russia to comply.How confident are you that they will?

JULIE BISHOP: Russia is a permanent member of the UnitedNations Security Council and it signed up to a resolution on the 21stof July 2014 that called on all states to cooperate fully with efforts toestablish accountability. Based on the findings overnight and previously we canonly reasonably conclude that Russia was directly involved in the bringing downof Malaysian airline MH17 and we demand answers from Russia. Why is it that asophisticated advanced weapon belonging to the Russian army, a BUK missile, wastransported into eastern Ukraine into territory controlled then by theRussian-backed separatists, brought down a civilian aeroplane and then wastransported immediately back into Russia thus leaving the crash site andattempting to thwart investigations into the downing of the plane.

JOURNALIST: How does Australia plan torespond if Russia does fail to take responsibility for this?

JULIE BISHOP: We have great hopes that Russia will complywith the terms of the Security Council. We have requested Russia to enterdialogue, enter negotiations, and we will commence those negotiations as soonas we hear back from the Russian Federation.

JOURNALIST: Will we see any on-groundresponse here in Australia? Will we perhaps see any expulsion of diplomats?

JULIE BISHOP: What we are proposing to do is enter intodialogue with Russia to gain an acknowledgement from Russia for its conduct,for it to cease its campaign of misinformation, for it to acknowledge the rolethat it played, that this BUK missile belonged to the Russian army, that it wasdeployed to eastern Ukraine, that it was used to bring down a passenger jet andthat it was transported away from the crash site and back into Russia. This isthe acknowledgement that the world has been waiting for and we call on allnations to make it clear to the Russian Federation that its conduct isunacceptable.

JOURNALIST: How does Australia's conclusioncompare with other grieving nations?

JULIE BISHOP: We have been in contact with the grievingnations. We are working closely with other partners and friends. There is asignificant amount of support for Australia's position and we are joined withthe Netherlands in making this announcement today.

JOURNALIST: Is this the endof investigation as far as you're concerned?

JULIE BISHOP: The investigation is ongoing. Theinvestigators will provide evidence for the Dutch prosecution but now we haveanother option and that is, the Russian Federation taking State responsibilityunder international law for its role in bringing down of this plane.

JOURNALIST: Will attempts to prosecute theRussian military or government be futile?

JULIE BISHOP: We believe that commencing negotiations isthe appropriate way to start - to get an acknowledgement from the RussianFederation that the BUK missile used to bring down this plane belonged, infact, to the Russian army, and we seek details of who was responsible fordeploying the BUK missile, who made the decisions, and we need that informationall the way up the chain of command.

JOURNALIST: What do you think is enough to finally seejustice done for the victim's families, friends and communities?

JULIE BISHOP: Families clearly want closure. They are stillgrieving almost four years on from this atrocity that killed 298 peopleincluding 38 Australians. They want to see closure but they also deservejustice and we will be seeking reparations for the atrocities caused by thisconduct.

JOURNALIST: Andofficial investigators are calling for witnesses to come forward, what's yourmessage for people who may have a little bit of information on this?

JULIE BISHOP: This represents a threat to internationalsecurity. If military weapons can be deployed and then used to bring downcivilian aircraft in what was essentially a war zone, then internationalsecurity is at risk. We call on all countries to inform the Russian Federationthat its conduct is unacceptable. And we know that there is an incredibleamount of international support when we obtained that unanimous resolution ofthe Security Council in July 2014 and we again call on those countries, notjust the grieving nations, but all countries who believe in upholding theinternational rules based order to inform Russia that its conduct is simplyunacceptable and is a gross disregard of international norms and standards.

JOURNALIST: And what will Australia's firststeps be working with the Netherlands to hold Russia accountable?

JULIE BISHOP: Our first step was to provide notification tothe Russian Federation in Moscow, in the Hague and in Canberra, and that wewant to commence negotiations. We have advised the Russian Federation that wehold it responsible under international law for its role in the bringing downof Malaysian airline MH17 and we request that the Russian Federation commencenegotiations.

JOURNALIST: Have you got any deadlines forthose negotiations? Any deadlines of when you want to hear back?

JULIE BISHOP: We obviously want to hear from the RussianFederation as soon as possible. It has been nearly four years since thisatrocity occurred and the grieving families deserve answers.

JOURNALIST: Is there anything you'd like toadd on this?

JULIE BISHOP: I can assure the families and the friends andloved ones of those who were killed aboard MH17 that the Australian Governmentwill continue to pursue justice on their behalf as vigorously as we can. Theannouncement today that we hold the Russian Federation responsible for its rolein the downing of MH17 will hopefully be of significance.

JOURNALIST: Minister just a couple ofquestions from some other bureaus, if that's okay? First of all, obviouslyDonald Trump has canned his plans to meet with North Korea. What's yourresponse to this? Is it a step back?

JULIE BISHOP: We are disappointed that the Summit betweenPresident Trump and Kim Jong-un that was to take place on the 12thof June in Singapore is now not going ahead. Clearly, President Trump was ofthe view that Kim Jong-un was not genuine in his statement that he woulddenuclearise and promote everlasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. We notethat President Trump has invited Kim Jong-un to commit to the negotiations andto the summit. In the meantime, the United States, Australia and otherinternational members of the community should continue to exert maximumeconomic and diplomatic and political pressure on North Korea to bring it backto the negotiating table. This is a matter I've raised with my counterpartforeign ministers at the recent G20 meeting, with Chinese Foreign Minister WangYi, with US Deputy Secretary of the State Department and others, ensuring thatthe international community continues to maintain that pressure on North Koreato bring it back to the negotiating table. North Korea is in direct violationof numerous UN Security Council resolutions that state its nuclear weaponsprogram and its ballistic missile programs are illegal. North Korea must ceasethis activity and negotiate to denuclearise as Kim Jong-un promised to do andto work towards a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. He also promised to dothat. This latest setback is disappointing, but we hope that the negotiationscan take place at some future date.

JOURNALIST: Disappointing but unsurprising?

JULIE BISHOP: I was not expecting that the road would beeasy. I thought that given North Korea's past behaviour of making promises,signing agreements and then not honouring them, was a negative sign but we hadsome hopes that he would abide by his word. And President Trump clearly came tothe conclusion that Kim Jong-un was not prepared to make genuine attempts todenuclearise and was not going to provide the verifiable concrete actions thathe required.

JOURNALIST: And just jumping over toMalaysia, Maria Exposto is facing the potential death penalty, what diplomaticmeans are being taken to try and save her life?

JULIE BISHOP: The Australian Government will continue toprovide consular support. She does have a legal team acting for her and Iunderstand that she is proposing to exercise her right of appeal. So, in thosecircumstances it would not be productive for me to comment on the case but theAustralian Government is providing support.

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