JOURNALIST The Foreign Minister Julie Bishop joins us this morning. Good morning Julie!
JULIE BISHOP Good morning Eddie.
JOURNALIST Julie, we wish we were talking to you in far better circumstances but can you give us a bit of intel on just what the situation is in Turkey at the moment with this coup over the weekend? We’re getting all different reports but you’re the person who knows most about it. What’s happening?
JULIE BISHOP Eddie, I spoke to the Turkish Foreign Minister Medluv Cavusoglu last night and we had a long discussion about what the Government believes occurred. There is an Islamist division within the military, it’s called the Gulenist movement, and the Government believes that the supporters of this movement were responsible for plotting this attempted coup. The Government is now rounding up all those that they believe were involved in the coup and they are treating them as terrorists. It’s important to point out that this was not a coup backed by Turkey’s secular, political, military and civilian opposition. While they might be opposed to President Erdogan, they were not supporting a coup. The leader of this Gulenist movement is in self-imposed exile in the United States and Turkey is indicating that it wants the United States to extradite him. There is still a lot of instability, although the chaos is calming somewhat.
I know there are a number of Australians still at airports in Ankara and Istanbul because flights are being disrupted and I’m urging all Australians to contact their airline or their travel agent or the Australian Embassy if they are not able to leave. We are urging people to reconsider their need to travel to Ankara and Istanbul while this situation is still so fluid and asking them to exercise a high degree of caution if they are travelling throughout Turkey.
JOURNALIST Julie, thanks for joining us this morning. There has been rumour and word coming out of the street in Turkey that there is a theory that potentially the Prime Minister of Turkey has staged this himself so that he could wipe the slate with the judiciary and elements of the military that he wasn’t happy with. Can you one hundred percent rule that out?
JULIE BISHOP Well obviously the Foreign Minister ruled out such a proposition. We are just monitoring the developments in Turkey very closely. There are a lot of theories about what occurred and it did take us quite some time to even get a handle on what was happening. We are in constant contact with our Ambassador James Larsen and he has actually visited the parliament, which had been bombed during this attempted coup. He has been speaking to ministers, members of the government and the opposition, and the situation is still not clear. We haven’t heard from the plotters, those who attempted the coup, as to their motivations, so I think the world is waiting to see how this develops. So there is still sporadic military activity, the situation is still tense but we are calling for restraint, maintenance of peace and order and respect for the democratic system and institutions that gave rise to a democratically elected government.
JOURNALIST Julie, is there any visibility on what happened in Nice? We know it’s a lone operator at the moment, various terrorist organisations are sort of claiming a bit of credit along the way. Is there any visibility there at all?
JULIE BISHOP ISIL have claimed responsibility. It took them a little while to do that and it did have the hallmarks of a terrorist attack. Initially, the French prosecutor who is investigating this indicated that it was a lone truck driver but now evidence seems to be emerging that it was a coordinated attack, but we will not know until such time as the prosecutor has concluded his investigation. The truck driver was known to police for anti-social behaviour, violent behaviour but he wasn’t previously associated with terrorism or known for radicalisation. They are taking people into custody but I think it will be some time before the investigating French prosecutor is able to determine the actual cause and who was responsible.
JOURNALIST How’d you go yesterday at the footy with Joe Biden? I mean, the conversation must have been amazing with what’s going on in the US, the Donald trump movement at the moment, this week a big week in Cleveland, and of course all these other things going on. Can you get your head around it, Julie, at the moment? I don’t think the world has been in such disarray for a long, long time.
JULIE BISHOP The trajectory in the world at present, across the globe, is deeply troubling. There is violence, instability in various places around the world not only in the Middle East – we have challenges in South Sudan, we have challenges in Syria and Iraq. These terrorist attacks can take place anywhere at any time, in any city, in any country. We have the attempted coup in Turkey and so I can assure you that there was plenty to talk about with Vice President Biden. He took time to come to the MCG because there’s a wonderful story that’s been repeated in the papers about the American marines when they left Guadalcanal in 1943 after some very vicious and heavy fighting where they lost so many and the injured were brought back to Melbourne and we had nowhere to put them. So they put them in tents on the MCG. The families and descendants of those marines have very close affection and association with Australia so Vice President Biden was there to pay respects and thank Australia for all that we had done for the United States during the Second World War.
But he also took in a game of footy and I’m pleased to say that the Eagles won, as I told him they would! And I noted that Carlton had draped a scarf around him which I thought was a little bit partisan so I managed to get an Eagles scarf around his neck at the same time and, as the ultimate diplomat, he wore both of them until I said I needed a photo for my club and he quickly whipped off the Carlton scarf! So I’ve got a photo of Vice President Biden in an Eagles scarf.
JOURNALIST Well he’s the American Eagle, I suppose, so we’ll give you a little bit there Julie, and the red, white and blues, he could’ve had that but luckily he had the real cultural attaché of Australia, Mason Cox, sitting along next to him from the Collingwood Football Club. [Laughter]
JULIE BISHOP [Laughter] Mason certainly gave a very good run down of the game and the Vice President was watching it very closely but he was telling us how he obviously followed American Football and College Football but when he was growing up he played a game called ‘Murder Ball’ and he reckons after you’ve survived playing Murder Ball, AFL would be a breeze!
JOURNALIST Oh fair enough! Well Julie, good luck to you, you’ve got the busiest portfolio in the world at the moment. Let’s hope that everyone’s right. Just to finish on though again, for all those Australians, anyone who’s got friends of relatives in Turkey at the moment, what’s your recommendation for them?
JULIE BISHOP Look my advice is that they should reconsider their need to travel to either Ankara or Istanbul and if they are anywhere else in Turkey they should exercise a very high degree of caution, listen to the advice of the local authorities, and monitor the media. We have an emergency call unit and if people are looking to get some advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, look on our website, Smartraveller, or call 1300 555 135, if you’re overseas call +61 2 6261 3305.
JOURNALIST Ok thanks Julie, really appreciate that. Our thoughts are with all the Turkish community here, particularly in Melbourne, a wonderful Turkish community who have been mainstays of this city for a long, long time now and let’s hope everything comes to a satisfactory conclusion there. Julie Bishop, the Foreign Minister, thanks.
JULIE BISHOP Thanks Eddie.
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