JOURNALIST Julie Bishop, are the Australian police going to get access to the site today?
JULIE BISHOP Sarah, this morning Frans Timmermans, the Dutch Foreign Minister and I, and our teams, had a very positive meeting with the OSCE. This is the organisation that has been providing us with the on-the-ground advice, as they have about 50 unarmed monitors across eastern Ukraine and have had so for several months. And they are also the organisation that is negotiating with the separatists on our behalf, and it was a very positive meeting. They couldn't see any reasons why our convoy would be delayed today and we should be able to access the site. And as it happens, shortly before coming to the studio to record this, we heard that the convoy has begun to move from Donetsk to the crash site and at this stage, there are no hurdles that we see. Of course, there are a number of check points both imposed by Ukrainian military and by the separatists, but we are feeling quite confident that our teams, our crash investigation teams, will get to the site today.
JOURNALIST The situation has obviously been very volatile over the past few days. Will that convoy be armed or protected by an armed force of any kind?
JULIE BISHOP No, they will be unarmed and they will not be protected other than through the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. These were the terms that we were able to negotiate with the separatists. But of course, OSCE have had unarmed monitors in Eastern Ukraine for quite some time. And what we are trying to do today is set up the conditions for the future. So we want to have access to the site, and this is an effort to determine the humanitarian corridor that the convoy should travel upon each day. And of course, each day, we will assess the security situation in conjunction with the OSCE. The Dutch commander is here - he's the Dutch Commissioner of Police, and we have Special Envoy Angus Houston, so every morning our teams will assess the operational risk before proceeding.
JOURNALIST But there have been reports in the last 24-48 hours of fighting actually on the crash site and certainly very close to it as well. What happens to those unarmed Australians if fighting breaks out right there?
JULIE BISHOP Shortly, the Minister and I are meeting with the senior leadership of the Ukrainian Government - President Poroshenko and the Acting Prime Minister Hroysman. And we are also meeting with representatives of their National Security and Defence Council, and we will be seeking assurances that none of the military activity that's been going on in the last 24 hours or longer will compromise our humanitarian mission.
JOURNALIST Let me just come in there. Do you have the same ... Sorry to interrupt you....
JULIE BISHOP We urged them to abide by the terms of the.....
JOURNALIST Let me just come in there because I want to ask whether or not you have the same assurances from the rebel side, because presumably they pose as much if not more of a threat to the Australians?
JULIE BISHOP The point I was trying to make is that we want to urge them to abide by the terms of the UN Security Council resolution which requires there to be a ceasefire on both sides. That is what we have sought from the separatists - an assurance that they will abide by the ceasefire - and that's what we will be seeking from the Ukrainian leadership because the ceasefire zone has been breached in the last 24 hours. There has been fighting within the exclusion zone and the Dutch and the Australians are seeking assurances that there will be a ceasefire in accordance with the unanimous United Nations Security Council resolution that we obtained last week.
JOURNALIST Is it the separatists or is it the Ukrainian government who don't want the Australians or the Dutch to be armed?
JULIE BISHOP It's a term of the negotiations with the separatists. The agreement we have struck with the Ukrainian Government, that is in a document that I signed last Friday morning, and the Dutch are about to sign the similar document with the Ukrainian government, does allow for a contingency of armed personnel should that be required. That's why the documents, the agreements, have to go to the parliament for ratification because to bring armed personnel into Ukraine, you must get parliamentary ratification. But we have the invitation and the consent of the Ukrainian government to bring in our police workers, our personnel, who will be involved in this humanitarian effort. They require them to be unarmed and we have accepted that condition.
JOURNALIST It also sounds very much like the rebels are still calling the shots though on and around the site?
JULIE BISHOP It's a very fluid situation. The last 24 hours have seen Ukrainian military take more ground, so we can't tell from moment to moment how the fighting is going. What we're doing is taking every step to be as well informed of what's going on, on-the-ground, as we can be and that's why we're working in coordination with the OSCE to ensure that we know the fluidity of the situation as we go into it. But as we record this this afternoon, we believe the convoy is on its way, and we're in constant touch with them. And we expect it to be a slow process, but we are hopeful that they will be on the site so that they can begin the grim but necessary work of combing the site, looking for any remains and belongings as well as commencing the crash site investigation to determine who is responsible for this atrocious act that saw a commercial plane shot out of the sky, killing all 298 people on board, including 38 people who call Australia home.
JOURNALIST And Prime Minister Abbott is still talking about the importance of justice being done in this case. Do you still see that criminal investigation involving the Russians for arming and training the rebels?
JULIE BISHOP We think it is very important that the families of those killed have answers, and we believe it is important that those who are responsible for this, those culpable for this act, are brought to justice. After all, this was a commercial airline in commercial air space that was shot down, we believe, by a surface-to-air missile. And those who created the conditions to enable this happen should account for it.
JOURNALIST I will take that as a yes on the Russians. Julie Bishop thank you very much indeed for joining us.
JULIE BISHOP My pleasure.
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