CHRIS UHLMANN Australian intelligence agencies believe an internet message inciting Islamic State followers to kill Australians is genuine. The organisation has posted a call to arms, urging supporters to kill any citizen from the coalition of countries being formed to battle the group. Julie Bishop is the Foreign Minister and she’s in New York ahead of UN Security Council meetings on Iraq and Syria later this week.
Julie Bishop, Islamic State militants have posted online threats urging their supporters to kill Australians and anyone really whose country is involved in the international coalition against it. Isn’t a furious and hysterical response just giving the group the publicity it craves?
JULIE BISHOP Our agencies are treating this threat as genuine and it’s quite apparent that ISIL is prepared to take on anyone who doesn’t share its views. So, we are a threat, not because of what we are prepared to do to combat ISIL, but because of who we are. ISIL is killing Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, Christians, they’re killing aid workers, journalists, so no one is safe in their presence. That’s why we’re so committed to containing and degrading and destroying ISIL as far as we can, in cooperation with other countries.
CHRIS UHLMANN You’ve been speaking to Arab League nations in New York. What are they going to contribute to this fight?
JULIE BISHOP The Arab states have already met. They have committed to something called the Jeddah Communique. That means that they are prepared to support the Iraqi Government, they are prepared to take on ISIL and its ilk through military, political and other means, starving ISIL of funds and foreign fighters and resources. I’ve been speaking specifically to the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Turkey, I’ve met with the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Arab League, and there is universal condemnation of ISIL and there is a universal commitment to working in cooperation to stop this threat from spreading beyond the Middle East and, most certainly, containing it and destroying it in Iraq and Syria.
CHRIS UHLMANN And yet the private cashed up citizens of Saudi Arabia and Qatar have provided finance for Islamic State.
JULIE BISHOP We are holding a meeting called a global counter-terrorism forum tomorrow. It’s being co-hosted by the United States and Turkey and we will be focussing on precisely those issues: the funding of terrorism, this practice of kidnapping for ransom. We will be looking at ways of countering violent extremism, in countering terrorism wherever we find it, but specifically focussing on the threat posed by ISIL in Syria and Iraq and it needs a commitment from all countries to starve ISIL of funds. I think that there’s general recognition that that must be a priority for all nations.
CHRIS UHLMANN But how can you trust these states? Their citizens have a long history of funding anti-Western terror groups like al-Qaeda and the Taliban and they have also funded Islamic State.
JULIE BISHOP This time they see ISIL as a real threat to them, because ISIL is not discriminating, ISIL doesn’t recognise boundaries, it doesn’t recognise groupings; it will kill anyone in its wake whom it believes does not commit to its world view, which is perverse, brutal and barbaric. So, I think that the Middle East has recognised what an insidious threat that ISIL has turned out to be and we must continue to work to build this coalition to destroy the structure of ISIL, to contain it and help the Iraqi Government specifically take back the territory that ISIL has claimed.
CHRIS UHLMANN You mentioned the complexities – 130,000 Kurds have poured across the Syrian border into Turkey in the last four days and they’re fleeing Islamic State militants, and yet Turkey, a NATO ally, is not yet a part of the international coalition.
JULIE BISHOP Turkey is certainly working behind the scenes. I’ve met with the Turkish Foreign Minister. They are bearing considerable burden in the number of refugees who are pouring into Turkey, but so is Lebanon and so is Jordan. So, this is a regional issue of mammoth proportions. Australia has been prepared to contribute in the past and will continue to do so. This is an enormous humanitarian crisis. There are millions of displaced people, people looking for support, and that’s why it’s so important for us to back the new Iraqi Government as it seeks to struggle with this enormous crisis that it’s confronting.
CHRIS UHLMANN But isn’t what we’re seeing on the border with Turkey and Syria a proof of the case that you can’t confront IS in Iraq alone?
JULIE BISHOP The countries that I’ve been talking to are intending to confront ISIL wherever they see it, and indeed, the terms of the debate that President Obama has called for on Wednesday, refer to foreign terrorist fighters, wherever they are.
CHRIS UHLMANN You are clearly, though, intending to join this fight, aren’t you? The Defence Minister, David Johnston, is in Baghdad. Why is he there?
JULIE BISHOP He’s in Baghdad to meet with the new members of the Iraqi Government. If we were to take part in an effort, it would be at the invitation of and request of the Iraqi Government and it’s important that we meet with them and talk to them about their needs and what they can realistically expect of countries and, also, to gauge the nature of the risks involved. Australia will not do this lightly. We will get as much information as we can, we will consider what is a clear and proportionate role, we will consider what timeframe is required, what resources and assets we can reasonably contribute, and then we will make a decision. It will be discussed in our National Security Committee, it will be discussed in our Cabinet, but we have to have an understanding of what the Iraqi Government is expecting and what challenges it faces.
CHRIS UHLMANN Julie Bishop, thank you.
JULIE BISHOP My pleasure.
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