Sky News AM Agenda - interview with Kieran Gilbert

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALISTFrom Washington the Foreign Minister,Julie Bishop, joins me. You've just wrapped up talks with the Vice-President,Joe Biden, and the National Security Adviser, Susan Rice. Can you give us anupdate of where things are at, first of all in terms of the fight in the MiddleEast, Minister? And I know this comes off the back of the recent visit by thePrime Minister to the White House and the calls for European nations to domore.

JULIEBISHOP Good morning Kieran and I'm sorry Iwas a little late. It was an extended meeting with Vice-President Joe Biden andit's also rather difficult getting around the icy Washington streets.

I also metwith the Head of the CIA, John Brennan, and the Director of NationalIntelligence, General Jim Clapper, today as well as National Security AdviserSusan Rice and then the meeting with Vice-President Biden. And the issue ofSyria and Iraq and the civil war in Syria and the fight against ISIL or Daeshcertainly dominated our discussions. There is progress being made and therelevant parties to the civil war in Syria are being called together for ameeting so that we can progress a solution that involves a political outcome inSyria. Progress is being made against ISIL in Iraq particularly, the takingback of Ramadi was seen very much as a turning point and the strategy tocontain, and ultimately defeat, ISIL appears to be progressing.

So we had avery detailed discussion about it. It is exceedingly complex. I don'tunderstate the complexity of the situation in Syria and Iraq but I believethere is a level of optimism that progress is being made.

JOURNALISTAnd is that progress leading otherslike the European nations to do more? Because when the official in charge, theGeneral in charge of the operations in Iraq and Syria was asked about it, hesaid that Australia's at the bottom of the list of those required to do more.There are others, namely the Europeans, who need to be doing more here. Who arewe talking about specifically?

JULIEBISHOP Well it has been acknowledged by theUnited States from the outset that Australia is a major contributor to theeffort in Iraq. Indeed, we believe that we are the second largest militarycontributor on the ground to the coalition efforts in Iraq.

So we arelooking for others with a direct interest in a positive outcome in Syria andIraq, and that includes countries in Europe. I think post the attacks in Paris,it was really brought home to a number of European countries that they had todo more and countries like France and Germany and Britain have responded. Butalso countries in the Middle East.

And I knowthe United States is urging other countries to do as Australia has done and putforward a greater contribution to ensure that we can bring peace to Syria,ensure that there is a stable government in Iraq and defeat this terroristorganisation that is still carrying out appalling attacks, horrendous attacks,around the world as well as causing enormous misery and suffering in Syria andIraq.

JOURNALISTFrom the talks you've had, are theUnited States, is the Obama Administration working on the basis of a timeline?A timeframe in which they believe that Daesh can be destroyed?

JULIEBISHOP Well yes, they do have timeframes butI won't share them as I don't believe the United States will share them becauseobviously you don't want to give the enemy terrorist organisations too muchinformation. But certainly we had a very deep, detailed discussion on strategyas well as tactics as to how we will defeat this organisation. But it is verycomplex on many fronts. In Syria there is a civil war going on with a number ofarmed opposition groups. As we know, Russia has entered into the conflict inSyria and that adds a layer of complexity.

But thepositive sign is that the United Nations has called for the relevant players inthis conflict to come together to discuss a peace process that would involvenot only a ceasefire in parts of the country but also a focus on the enemyterrorist organisation and a focus on the humanitarian situation. And there aremeetings being called in Europe to focus on countering ISIL and in London,specifically, to focus on the humanitarian crisis and what more can be done.And Australia, of course, has already made a significant contribution torelieve the humanitarian crisis and, of course, we're prepared to do more.

JOURNALISTNow your visit comes just a week or soafter the Prime Minister was at the White House. One of the things that hementioned in his remarks in the Oval Office was complimenting President Obamaover the nuclear deal with Iran. That's a controversial deal; it's notsupported by all sides in the United States. How has that endorsement by MrTurnbull gone down there?

JULIEBISHOP The Prime Minister's visit has beenconsidered to be a great success here. I've had very positive feedback from theWhite House and from others including from the Senate and Capitol Hill. So thePrime Minister's visit was exceedingly well received.

Of course,implementation day for the Iran nuclear deal occurred on 16 January and I thinkwe achieved that date sooner than expected. That is, Iran fulfilled its side ofthe bargain and that led to the lifting of some, but certainly not all,sanctions. And the United States is to be congratulated on achieving first theP5+1 negotiation outcome but also the fact that Iran has fulfilled, to thispoint, its obligations and therefore the sanctions can be lifted but as I said,not all. Australia has lifted economic and financial sanctions but othersremain in place. And this is in accordance with our UN obligations and ourcommitment to that resolution.

So I believethat it's a positive sign because we have ensured that Iran will not continuedown that nuclear weapons pathway, we have found some time, quite frankly, andthe deal was worth doing. So from the outset, Australia has supported thenegotiations with Iran and now Iran has actually complied with its initialobligations. Of course, it's a long term proposition and we'll continue tosupport the process.

JOURNALISTAlright, a couple of other issuesbefore we wrap up. You've made some comments, quoted in The Australian today, relating to a motion that's going to be moved by the Labor Party'sFriends of Palestine section of their party. Well, they're basically going tomove a motion that bans travel, sponsored travel, by MPs and officials toIsrael while Benjamin Netanyahu's Government continues the policy ofsettlements and increasing the size of settlements in the occupied territories.What's your view on that and aren't these Labor figures, you know, within theirrights to be critical of Netanyahu over that policy which is seen by many,including Barack Obama, as counterproductive?

JULIEBISHOP Bill Shorten, as Leader of the LaborParty, should take a very strong stand against any such resolution. It would seemthat there are some in the Labor Party who want to cling to ignorant prejudicesrather than understand the facts and travel to the region and learn more aboutit. I can't believe that Bill Shorten would allow such a motion to go throughto ban Members of Parliament from being properly informed as to the facts onthe ground. I have been on one of these visits and I know many colleagues fromall sides of politics have been on these visits. They are assiduous in assuringthat we meet the Palestinian leadership, the Israeli leadership and that wemake up our own mind, that we make our own assessment of the facts as we seethem, and surely that's what Members of Parliament should be encouraged to do,not banned from travelling and maintaining this ignorant prejudice thatobviously exists within the Labor Party.

JOURNALISTForeign Minister Julie Bishop, Iappreciate your time there live from Washington this morning. Thank you forthat. We'll chat to you soon.

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