Sky News First Edition, New York - interview with Kieran Gilbert
JOURNALIST We're going to take you live now to New York, Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, is standing by. Julie Bishop, thank you for your time. You had progress at the UN yesterday. Are you satisfied with the progress that we're seeing on the ground now in Eastern Ukraine?
JULIE BISHOP Good morning, Kieran.
I have been told by Angus Houston our special envoy in Kiev, that the tension and atmosphere in Kiev and on the crash site as we led up to the resolution back in New York at the Security Council was quite intense but that after the resolution was passed unanimously, the environment changed completely. And we're now seeing a level of cooperation and we're starting to see our resolution implemented and that is people are being allowed onto the crash site. The black boxes have been released into the Malaysian authorities' custody who have now sent them on to Britain where they can be investigated in an expert manner. And most importantly, the train containing the bodies and remains of the victims including presumably the Australians, has left the crash site and has arrived in another town and has now been received including by our Ambassador to Warsaw who is present there in Kharkov and the bodies will now be transported by air on Dutch and Australian planes to the Netherlands. So, since the resolution we have seen a significant change in the cooperation from the rebels in this eastern Ukraine region.
JOURNALIST So, we saw that unanimous vote at the UN Security Council, the Russians included in that vote of course. Are you confident now that it won't be just token support, that they will use their influence as you've called on them to do so and the Prime Minister has done the same? Are you confident now the Russian leadership will use their influence over the separatists to ensure that cooperation continues on the ground?
JULIE BISHOP It's my view that Russia gravely misread the international furore about the way this matter has been handled from the moment that that plane crashed in eastern Ukraine in the rebel-held area. Yesterday as the international pressure mounted, as we gained more support for our resolution, as more countries offered to co-sponsor the resolution at Australia's invitation, we saw a change in Russia's attitude and President Putin for the first time called on the separatists to cooperate so that the investigation could get underway and the site be secured. This is what President Putin should have done from the outset. Russia has considerable influence over the rebels. They are Russian-backed and now we're starting to see Russia's influence because we're getting access to the site, the bodies have been removed and the investigators will commence their work. We are still to secure the site and that's what I've been working on with my counterpart Foreign Minister, the Dutch Foreign Minister throughout the course of today.
JOURNALIST You said in your contribution at the United Nations that the UN Security Council and the UN will continue to have a role in ensuring this full and transparent independent inquiry's undertaken. What sort of role does that include in your view?
JULIE BISHOP The United Nations is already involved beyond the resolution because the International Civil Aviation Organisation is a UN-backed organisation and that will be carrying out the technical work in relation to the investigation on the site. And so the UN is already involved but I hope that we will keep the United Nations Security Council engaged step by step as we fulfil the terms of the resolution. That includes securing the site, so that the people working on the site are also safe, that there is a ceasefire to enable the investigative work to be carried on and that the evidence be maintained on the site.
We've seen five days of tampering with evidence, contaminating the site, the removal of bodies, the looting of personal belongings. Now, we need to ensure that the site is treated as it should have been from the outset, as an airline crash site and a criminal investigation site.
JOURNALIST Finally, Foreign Minister, I know you've got other commitments but one last question. The Prime Minister flagged Australian involvement in a multinational force to help do what you're saying and protect that site. What sort of force would you envisage?
JULIE BISHOP We have been having discussions throughout today in New York and in Kiev and I know the Prime Minister has a number of conversations that he'll be holding in the course of this morning and he'll make an announcement in due course. But we're looking at a range of options. Our overriding objective is to ensure that we can identify and repatriate the bodies and remains of those Australian victims on board MH17. That's what we're focusing on at present but we have to also ensure that the site is secure so that the investigation can be carried out peacefully, without any interference and that we are able to gather the evidence to prove who was responsible for this atrocity.
JOURNALIST Foreign Minister, on another busy day for you I appreciate your time.