Question Time - Developments in Ukraine

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

3 March 2014

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin–Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:09):I thank the member for Hindmarsh for his question and I acknowledge that he is deeply concerned, as are other members who have Ukrainian communities in their electorate, about the escalating crisis that we see in Ukraine. I can confirm, as the Prime Minister has, that both sides of the House are gravely concerned about the escalation that we have seen–an escalation in Russian military activity, an escalation in tensions. In recent days the Russian parliament has authorised the use of force inside Ukraine. This is a significant but wholly unacceptable development. It undermines the right of the Ukrainian people to choose their own destiny.

The Australian government has urged Russia to withdraw its troops, to step back from Ukraine and to de-escalate its activities that are persisting in this unfolding crisis. We are particularly concerned that the new Ukrainian government requested urgent talks with the Russian Federation. This request was rebuffed outright. We are greatly concerned that the lines of communication between the parties be kept open. This is a time for diplomacy and dialogue.

We join with the international community in calling on the Russian Federation to respect Ukraine's sovereignty and its territorial integrity. In particular, we are calling on the new government of Ukraine to continue to exercise restraint in the face of provocation. Today, on my direction, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade called in the Russian ambassador to formally register our concerns with the Russian government and to ascertain the intentions of the Russian government in this matter. We will continue to maintain that dialogue. Over the past 48 hours, the United Nations Security Council has also met on two occasions. Our ambassador to the United Nations, our permanent representative, Ambassador Gary Quinlan, has given a clear, unequivocal message on behalf of the Australian government and the Australian people, and that is that we support Ukraine's sovereignty. The use of force is utterly unacceptable. It is contrary to the UN charter of rights and it is contrary to international agreements that Russia has signed to preserve Ukraine's sovereignty. We will remain in very close contact with our friends and allies and the members of the UN Security Council.

I urge Australians thinking of travelling to Ukraine and the surrounding area to log on to the government's Smartraveller website. The travel advisory will be updated; it will be under constant review as the situation changes. This is an extremely volatile, fluid situation and extreme caution must be exercised. I will keep the House informed of any further developments.

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