Joint press conference with Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, Warsaw

  • Transcript, E&OE, proof only

MINISTER SIKORSKI: Today's visit is a confirmation of the outstanding relations between Poland and Australia. I am very happy that we are able to continue our friendship. I have known Madam Bishop since my visit to Australia in May last year, back then she was in the opposition.

We talked on the issues of security in both regions. We included the question of the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia. I would like to thank and express my gratitude to Australia for its stance as a non-permanent member of the UNSC and for joining the sanctions against this illegal act. Both our countries are US allies and we share similar view that the American presence is a key element of security in both regions.

We are also very happy that trade between our countries, which amounts to US$ 850 million, grew by 28 percent last year. We are also happy to be a convenient place and destination for Australian investments which have already reached US$ 1.3 billion and we hope that they will further increase, particularly in the areas such as shale gas, coal gasification or green technologies.

We are also very happy that we have signed an agreement with Madam Minister on the basis of which young Australians and Poles will be able to visit both countries, and work at the same time.

Again thank you very much for finding time to pay a visit to Poland.

MINISTER BISHOP: Thank you Minister Sikorski for your very warm welcome. I am delighted to be here as Australia's Foreign Minister to build on the very strong ties that exist between Australia and Poland. Our historic ties are profound and evidenced by a very large Polish community in Australia that has made an extraordinary contribution to the success of our nation.

Our discussion today ranged across a broad and diverse sphere of topics including security in your region, and in ours; trade, investment, cultural ties and energy security. Whenever I have the opportunity to speak with Foreign Minister Sikorski I am reminded of how much we have in common as nations. We are likeminded in so many respects.

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to you, Minister, for outstanding leadership over the issue of Ukraine and the illegitimate annexation of Crimea. Through your very strong statements and those of your Prime Minister Poland has been a beacon of strength in the face of Russia's aggressive foreign policy.

Australia has joined with Poland in condemning the breach of territorial sovereignty of Ukraine. Indeed, as a member of the Security Council we have made a number of statements condemning the breach of Ukraine's territorial sovereignty and the referendum giving rise to the annexation of Crimea.

Australia and Poland exist in very different geopolitical spheres but we have joined in solidarity with Poland, the EU, the United States and Canada and others in imposing sanctions and travel bans on Russia and individuals from Russia and Ukraine, who we believe were instrumental in this breach of Ukraine's territorial sovereignty.

Australia is committed to the international rules based order and we joined with Poland in co-sponsoring a resolution in the General Assembly which was supported by 100 nations.

We do not believe it is too late for Russia to change course and we continue to further to do so and to enter into a diplomatic dialogue with stakeholders in this crisis in Ukraine and Crimea.

On the issue of bilateral trade and investment we have agreed that there is a great potential for our two countries to do more together. Australia is an energy exporter, Poland, at this stage, is an energy importer and there are great complementarities between our economies. Australia is one of the world's largest producers of energy – coal, LNG and uranium, and our economy is entering its 23rd consecutive year of economic growth. We would be a reliable and trusted partner for Poland and we want to explore opportunities for us to increase our two-way trade and investment.

We are investing in our joint future through this work and holiday visa arrangement which will give young Australians and young Poles the opportunity to work and travel and holiday in each other's country. I cannot think of a better way to enhance the bilateral relationship than to have generations of young people spending time in each other's country and returning home with new perspectives and insights and ideas and perhaps skills, language skills that have been gained from the time spent in each other's country.

Ours is a relationship based on mutual trust and respect and I look forward to this relationship being enhanced across a broader and deeper range of areas in the years ahead. So Foreign Minister thank you very much for your warm welcome here.

JOURNALIST: Mr Sikorski, what do you think about the statement made by Yanukovich and his proposal to conduct a referendum in different regions in Ukraine, considering the concentration of Russian troops along the borders? Do you see it as an overture, if you will, to a military aggression that is going to take place soon, possibly?

And to Madam Minister, what chances do you still see in finding the wreck of the Boeing MH370 and how long is Australia prepared to continue the search?

MINISTER SIKORSKI: If the former president Yanukovich behaved like a legitimate president of a country than the most natural communication that we should anticipate would be a protest against the annexation of a part of the territory of his own country. However, if the statement is true, it sounds more like it has been a statement made by the authorities of the country in which the president is now residing. So if this is an introduction to a possible military intervention then it is by far not convincing.

MINISTER BISHOP: In relation to the search and recovery effort, in relation to Malaysian Airlines MH370, this is still a baffling mystery. As to the fate of the plane, the passengers and the crew, Australia had six citizens on board that plane and the majority were Chinese nationals.

The search effort has shifted to another location still in the Southern Indian Ocean, and bad weather hampered efforts yesterday, but the search has resumed today.

The Malaysian Government is leading the coordination efforts but Australia is working closely and cooperatively with a range of other nations who can offer their expertise and their assets to assist in the search and recovery effort.

I met with President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague this week, and I also met with Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia who was at the same summit. I assured them both that Australia would continue to support the search and recovery efforts for as long as China and Malaysia requested us to be involved. Australia has already deployed a number of ships and planes and technical expertise through ourmaritime surveillance organisation, and will continue to provide that support for as long as the coordinator, Malaysia, and the country with the most nationals, China, tasks us to do so.

We certainly owe it to the families of the Australian citizens on board and the passengers and crew from other countries to continue these efforts.

- Ends -

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