JOURNALIST In your radio interviews this morning you said there had been some positive signs about the Russian Turkish situation. What are those positive signs?
JULIE BISHOP I spoke with our Ambassadors in Moscow and Ankara overnight and they have indicated that the domestic media in both Russia and Turkey are reporting that there are signs of both Turkey and Russia coming together to discuss a way forward. The Foreign Minister of Turkey, the Foreign Minister of Russia are meeting in the coming days. The Russian Foreign Minister has indicated to the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini that Russia will continue to take part in the discussions on the Syrian political solution. They are positive indications. Both sides have referred the incident to the United Nations Security Council.
So notwithstanding the rhetoric, I think that the actions show that both parties appreciate what would be at stake here if there was a military escalation of this incident - but I do think there will be consequences. For example Russia has suspended any military cooperation with Turkey. Russia has imposed some economic sanctions. There's been talk of some projects, energy projects, being suspended and Russia has been advising its tourists, the Russian people, not to travel to Turkey so there are consequences, but I don't think we'll see a military retaliation.
JOURNALIST Even though there are those positive signs there's still very different rhetoric, different accounts of what happened?
JULIE BISHOP Vastly different accounts and Turkey has released video and audio and satellite mapping. Russia has released video. Russia has had one of its pilots retrieved - is now back in Russia - and maintains that he was not given any warnings, he didn't receive warnings and that he was in Syrian air space.
The Turks maintain that their evidence shows that they did violate Turkish air space, and according to well established rules of engagement they were entitled to react in self-defence because of the violation of their air space. Now clearly with two such starkly differing versions of events, a credible competent independent investigation will be required to establish the facts.
JOURNALIST I was going to ask you about this story in today's Herald suggesting that it's taken a fair while for Australian troops to get their visas for Baghdad. Why is that happening? Isn't this is the second time this has happened?
JULIE BISHOP It is a difficult situation within the Government of Iraq to ensure that there is support across the board for foreign troops. Even though they're not combat troops, for foreign troops in Iraq it is a rather laborious process of obtaining visas for each and every one of them. Nevertheless, they were the rules that Iraq set when we first agreed to accept the invitation to go into Iraq to support their forces, to build their capacity and as I understand it, the matter's been resolved.
JOURNALIST Are you hoping this doesn’t happen again? This is the second time; will there be a third time?
JULIE BISHOP We work very closely with the Iraqi Government. It is a laborious administrative process but it has been resolved and I'm sure that each time we will be able to streamline it so I’m confident that it won't happen.
JOURNALIST Just back on the Russian plane, do you still hold concerns about Australian operations in the region?
JULIE BISHOP Our operations are under constant review by the military, the ADF, we are part of the US-led Coalition. All our air activities are managed through a US coordination centre. The US on behalf of the Coalition has a memorandum of understanding with Russia, indeed this was one of the first issues that the US and Russia resolved when Russia announced it was intervening in Syria and there are very clear protocols as to engagement, communication, flight activities.
Nevertheless, because of this incident of course we'll keep our operations under review and ensure that the memorandum of understanding holds. We are also in very different locations. The Australian air task group’s mission is very clearly defined, it's very limited to the border areas in the east over Iraq and Syria and our work is to attack the ISIL-Daesh bases from which they're launching attacks into Iraq, we're in a different air space for a start.
JOURNALIST Minister, can you explain what amendments are required to the citizenship bill?
JULIE BISHOP I'll leave that to our Immigration Minister because he's handling the detail of it, but we are very keen to ensure that this legislation meets the purpose for which it was introduced but also meets the concerns of others, but I'll leave the detail as to where the particular amendments are up to at this stage to the Minister handling the matter.
JOURNALIST Why were the amendments needed? Was the Bill not properly drafted in the first place?
JULIE BISHOP I think Latika you've been around this place long enough to know that there's always an element of compromise in controversial bills. That's what the Senate is meant to do. The Senate is meant to review bills and offer constructive thoughts and observations and suggestions as to how bills can be improved so if better legislation comes out as a result of it then it’s been a positive exercise. Thank you.
JOURNALIST What steps have you taken to ensure that the lapse as a result of the Port of Darwin sale doesn't happen again?
JULIE BISHOP I think this matter has been dealt with by Secretary Denis Richardson. Clearly there were communications at various levels, with the Northern Territory Government, with the United States and with the Foreign Investment Review Board, but it's a matter that I think has been dealt with by many people who are involved.
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