JOURNALIST: I’m joined by Julie Bishop, she is Australia’s envoy here. Foreign Minister, thank you very much for joining us. I had a chance to speak with the Russian President yesterday and I asked him to respond to the allegation that he’s not doing enough to solve the crisis in Ukraine. He sort of shrugged it off and said he is always accused of doing something. What’s your reaction to that?
JULIE BISHOP: Our concern in Australia is first that it has been a breach of sovereignty, of Ukraine sovereignty, by Russia and we’ve been part of the international response in imposing sanctions on Russia. But secondly and most importantly Australia is concerned about Russia’s response to the downing of MH17, the Malaysia Airlines flight that was shot down in eastern Ukraine. We’ve been calling on Russia to ensure that there could be access, free and unfettered access, to that crash site and that’s not occurring. So there is lot that Russia can do to support the cease fire in Ukraine, which I understand is not being adhered to, but also to allow the Dutch-led investigation team to get on to that crash site so that it can carry out the investigation to determine who is responsible for killing 298 innocent civilians who boarded that flight, and bring them to justice, and Russia has considerable influence in that part.
JOURNALIST: Have you had an opportunity to speak with Russian officials since you’ve been here and did you discuss the issue of MH17?
JULIE BISHOP: Yes, I spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov yesterday during the plenary session and raised our concerns with him. Russia is in no doubt about Australia’s attitude to the events surrounding the shooting down of MH17. I’ve made a number of statements, including at the United Nations Security Council. I’ve expressed Australia’s deep concern that we need to have access to the crash site so that investigators can search for the last remains but also undertake the very vital investigation into the causes of the crash.
JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister is there any doubt in your mind that Russia is responsible for downing of flight MH17?
JULIE BISHOP: There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that MH17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile inside the Ukrainian border by Russian-backed separatists.
JOURNALIST: On a perhaps on a much lighter note your Prime Minister is well aware and said that when the Russian President comes for the G20 meeting, which will take place in Australia on November 15 and 16, he intends to shirtface it, this is a term we were…
JULIE BISHOP: Shirt front.
JOURNALIST: Shirt front. Thank you. This is a term we are all learning from Australian based football. Yes?
JULIE BISHOP: It’s a term meaning to confront.
JOURNALIST: To confront. In football it means it’s an illegal hit, isn’t it, to take your opponent down. Presumably he was speaking metaphorically. What exactly did he mean?
JULIE BISHOP: Of course what he meant is he will take the opportunity, should President Putin come to the G20 to raise with him directly the concerns we have about what has been going on in Ukraine and also particularly our concerns about lack of access to the site which is being held by these Russian backed rebels and asking him to use Russia’s undoubted influence over the rebels to give us access to that crash site. There are grieving families all around the world waiting for the outcome of that investigation.
JOURNALIST: And your reaction to the Russian envoy’s comment that the Russian leader is a judo expert?
JULIE BISHOP: Well I’m only concerned with the families, those who are suffering anguish and grief, and my focus is ensuring that investigators can get onto that crash site, complete the job that the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2166 provided for, that there be free and unfettered access to the site and that there be a full, thorough, independent investigation into the causes of the crash.
JOURNALIST: Australia has sanctions against Russia. Many countries have sanctions against Russia. Should they be ratcheted up?
JULIE BISHOP: Well at this stage we have put in place a suite of sanctions, travel and financial sanctions against individuals and entities that we think is appropriate. We don’t have a significant trading relationship with Russia, but we are making the statement that we believe its behaviour in relation to Ukraine and Crimea is unacceptable, it’s against international law, international norms, it’s a clear breach of sovereignty. Russia would not accept that if another country did it to Russia, so Russia should not be acting in this way in relation to Ukraine.
JOURNALIST: And just a quick one Foreign Minister. As a result of Russia’s retaliatory sanctions against Australia, Australian steaks, Australian beef has been banned the import of it into Russia. Are you going to serve steak at the G20 meeting?
JULIE BISHOP: It’s extraordinary that Russia chose the day of our national mourning for the victims of MH17 to impose retaliatory sanctions on Australia so the timing was pretty appalling. But I believe that very decent Australian fare will be served at the G20. Australia is very proud to be hosting the G20 in Brisbane on the 15th and 16th of November. It’s a very robust agenda on growth and job opportunities that is resonating here in the meeting in Milan, and I believe there should be some very positive outcomes from Australia’s hosting of the G20.
JOURNALIST: Well, our thoughts at Bloomberg are certainly with the families of those who were killed in the downing of flight MH17. Thank you very much Foreign Minister. That was of course Australia’s envoy here speaking about her meeting with Russian Foreign Minister and other Russian officials here and what she expects to come from the G20 which is going to happen in Australia in three weeks’ time in Australia. Back to you.
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