Transcript of Interview on Sky News Australia

Subject: Unrest in Egypt

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

29 January 2011

NEWSREADER: And more now on the situation in Egypt. Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd joins us on the line. Mr Rudd, thanks for your time this morning.

KEVIN RUDD: Good to be with you.

NEWSREADER: White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, we heard him say a few moments ago at the White House, that the people of Egypt need to decide what is going to happen there. How do you see that?

KEVIN RUDD: Well my more immediate concern is to the well being of Australians in Cairo and for Australians considering the possibility of travelling to Egypt at this time. We're in the process of amending our travel advisory for Australians to read: reconsider your need to travel. That is because of our concerns about the security situation, not just in Cairo but in other cities.

I've just spoken to our Ambassador in Cairo. In fact I've spoken to her twice in the last several hours. Notwithstanding the curfew that has been announced by the Egypt authorities, there are still large scale protests in the streets. Also there are some tanks in the streets I'm advised as well. It therefore appears as if we are in a difficult security situation and our first and foremost concern is the well being of Australians in the country.

We have about 800 or more registered Australians within the country. We suspect that there are more Australians in the country than that. The Embassy is in contact with international hotels in Cairo to provide basic security information. But again I would emphasise through your program that we are amending our travel advisory to state “reconsider your need to travel” to Egypt.

NEWSREADER: Do you have any concerns that any Australians are under direct threat in any of these cities where the rioting is taking place in Egypt?

KEVIN RUDD: We don't have information to that effect at this stage but as you will have concluded from what you're seeing on your television screen, and based on my own conversations with our Ambassador, just now and again several hours ago, the security situation on the streets is tense. The Egyptian people are waiting for an address to them by President Mubarak. But as I said before, notwithstanding the announcement of a curfew for this evening in Cairo, it appears that that curfew proclamation has been ignored.

So therefore, again I go back to the more basic question at this stage, which is the well being of Australians in that part of the world, and again draw their attention carefully to look at the most recent revisions to the Australian Government's travel advisory, and to say to Australians who have friends or relatives in Egypt, at the moment that the Australian Embassy is in the process of contacting and communicating with Australians who are currently in Cairo and other centres within Egypt.

NEWSREADER: Mr Rudd if I can turn now to what is happening there and what you see as the future, do you think the people - they're calling for freedoms. They want more freedoms in their country. What's Australia's view on that? Do we support that?

KEVIN RUDD: Well the political situation is highly fluid, as a number of my colleagues from elsewhere around the world have said. We have long supported democratic transformation across the Middle East. We have equally strongly argued that this transformation should occur peacefully and without violence. That remains our view in terms of recent developments in Egypt as well.

I should add to what I just said before that earlier today I met with and had discussions with the Foreign Minister of Egypt in Addis Ababa, where we were both attending the African Union Summit and we discussed these matters in some detail there as well.

NEWSREADER: The White House is suggesting that the Egyptians turn the internet back on and the social networks, that sort of thing, and of course to end the violence. You'd be supportive of that, would you?

KEVIN RUDD: Well I've not seen White House statements to that effect. I go back to what I said before. We ourselves have long supported democratic transformation across the Middle East and across the Arab world, but equally we strongly emphasise the importance for those things to occur peacefully and without violence.

Therefore we should be exceptionally vigilant about what is occurring in Egypt at the moment. And again I go back to my earlier remarks, we must be first and foremost concerned, at times of great instability and violence on the streets in Cairo, about the well being of Australians.

NEWSREADER: Kevin Rudd we thank you very much for your time on Sky News.

KEVIN RUDD: Thank you for having me on the program.

ENDS

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