JOURNALIST: …United Nations now is the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Very busy day for you, started with the International Support Group for Syria and we’ve seen the events in the last few days – the collapse of the ceasefire – is there really any prospect that that ceasefire can be in place, reinstated by the end of the week?
JULIE BISHOP: There was a unanimous view that the ceasefire is not dead, the ceasefire must be reinvigorated and, indeed Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov are both committed to ensuring that the ceasefire holds because there is a humanitarian crisis of mammoth proportions in Syria, and the ceasefire must hold so that humanitarian relief can get to the beleaguered people. People are dying, there is a terrible crisis there, and there was a general commitment to ensuring that we put all options on the table and find a negotiated path to peace.
JOURNALIST: Have you been briefed though on who is responsible for the bombing of that aid convoy?
JULIE BISHOP: That was a terrible incident that occurred. These were trucks, UN trucks clearly marked that were leaving Turkey to go to people in Aleppo that are suffering and that incident is truly shocking. However as was indicated by both Russia and United States, we must allow investigations to take their course. There’s no point making accusations until the facts are known. So there’s an investigation to establish the facts and it was certainly an appalling incident.
JOURNALIST: But are the Russians and Secretary of State Kerry working together now that they have agreed on a path forward?
JULIE BISHOP: There was a meeting before the International Syria Support Group met – the Support Group is a broader cross section of foreign ministers from not only the US and Russia but also the EU, Middle East and Australia, Canada and Japan – and Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov did have a meeting beforehand. There were no direct accusations or allegations made in front of all the group but clearly they had agreed that the ceasefire they had negotiated must be reinvigorated and must stand so that a path to peace can be negotiated.
JOURNALIST: Are you worried that the Australian sortie which we are involved in with the US-led airstrikes, that bombing raid killed the 80-odd Syrians, is that what broke the ceasefire?
JULIE BISHOP: I don’t believe that’s the case. There is an investigation underway into that but there are spoilers in Syria, there are groups that do not want there to be peace negotiations - and they are on both sides – and so we are calling on all those in the room, all of the countries represented in the International Syria Support Group to use whatever influence they have over the various groups in Syria. It’s a very complicated and complex environment, to use whatever influence they have to ensure that a ceasefire can hold and humanitarian relief can be provided and a negotiated peace process can begin.
JOURNALIST: Minister, can I ask you about the numbers in terms of refugee intake? The Prime Minister is committing as we speak to maintaining 18,500 refugees…
JULIE BISHOP: 18,750.
JOURNALIST: 18,750 ok, each year by 2018. Is this artificially inflating the gravity of that by the Government saying it is the third largest permanent settlement in the world when you look at so many countries in Europe and so on having to deal ad hoc with huge numbers?
JULIE BISHOP: What we are talking about is permanent resettlement not transitional. This is a permanent resettlement process so that we are focussing on those who are persecuted minorities, ethnic and religious minorities, women, children in particular – those who have least prospect of returning to their homes. There are many displaced people who are in camps on the borders of Syria and Iraq, in Lebanon and Jordan, but they are being held there with a prospect of going home at some point. We’re taking people who have no prospect of ever going back, the persecuted minorities, and we are on a per capita basis the third largest after Canada and the United States. That’s a fact.
JOURNALIST: What about the refugees, genuine refugees, 800 plus on Nauru and Manus? Are we, your Government, the Prime Minister saying that we’ve got a great story to tell but that’s not a very strong part of the framework?
JULIE BISHOP: What we have sought to do is smash the people smuggling trade, the criminal networks that were preying on vulnerable people, putting them on unseaworthy boats, putting their lives at risk. Now we have to send a very strong message to the people smuggling trade that we will not allow it to restart, and so those who have been found to be refugees on Manus and Nauru will not be resettled in Australia. That will only encourage the people smuggling trade to start again.
JOURNALIST: Sure but that must weigh on you that they’re not being resettled at this point, that they’re still in limbo?
JULIE BISHOP: But they will be resettled, there is an opportunity for them to be resettled in Papua New Guinea. We’re working with other countries, we’re working with Cambodia, through the Bali Process which we co-host with Indonesia, we are looking at third country options and will continue to do that.
JOURNALIST: How much of a priority is it for you though because it has been many months now, years that these individuals have been left in limbo, in part because of the Labor policy I’m fully aware of that. But the Government hasn’t been able to find a resolution to it?
JULIE BISHOP: But they are also subject to the laws of Papua New Guinea and Nauru and they have been undertaking the processing of claims, and a number of people have been found not to attract protection. They are not refugees for the purposes on the convention, and they should return home. So there is a range of different circumstances that we have been dealing with but the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Government of Nauru are also taking responsibility.
JOURNALIST: You’ve had a series of bilaterals as well, bilateral meeting here at the United Nations including the new Foreign Secretary of the UK. What can we expect with the former London Mayor?
JULIE BISHOP: Well in fact I have met with Boris Johnson on a number of occasions. He has a great affection for Australia, I’m looking forward to an ever deepening relationship with the UK particularly post-Brexit and there are many opportunities for us to have a closer engagement with the United Kingdom. Yesterday I attended an initiative that was commenced by Belgium, Iraq and the United Kingdom about holding Daesh, the terrorists, to account for the atrocities that they’ve carried out. This is an initiative being driven by Boris Johnson and others and Australia certainly supports that. We are exploring ways to prosecute the individual terrorists, not just defeat the terrorist organisation militarily but actually hold the individuals to account through an international investigation, perhaps under the auspices of the International Criminal Court. So Boris Johnson has shown that he is going to be very a proactive Foreign Secretary and I look forward to continuing to work with him.
JOURNALIST: The final issue I want to ask you about is the final stages of the Presidential campaign. You’re meeting with both camps? Have you met with any of them yet, the Clinton or Trump camps?
JULIE BISHOP: Yes I have, both in Washington and here in New York. I have met with members of their transition teams. These are the people who will be organising the transition from the election date in November through to the Inauguration in January, and then thereafter the appointment of Cabinet places and the like, but also members of the campaign teams who are working up until November 8, the election. And I’ve met with representatives from both the Trump teams and the Clinton teams and have stressed how important we believe the alliance with the United States is. We’ve stressed the importance of upholding our alliance but also the importance of free trade, and of course the Trans Pacific Partnership has been an issue of considerable discussion between us…
JOURNALIST: But both have been critical of that. My final question is would the alliance hold up in the face of a Trump Presidency?
JULIE BISHOP: Certainly from Australia’s point of view, absolutely. And the Trump camp made it quite clear to me that Australia is considered to be a close and strong ally of the United States. So I am confident that whomever the American people in their wisdom choose to be their President, there will be an ongoing strong connection with Australia.
JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister thanks so much for your time. We appreciate it.
JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure.
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