JULIE BISHOP Ladies and gentlemen of the media, I am delighted to be here in Tehran on the first visit of an Australian Minister to Tehran in over ten years. And I thank His Excellency for the very warm welcome and the very productive and constructive discussion that we have had. This discussion will continue after my meeting with President Rouhani and I look forward to continuing this very positive engagement on bilateral, regional and global issues that concern both our nations.

In particular, the Foreign Minister and I discussed this violent terrorist organisation known as Daesh, or ISIL, and we agree that we are witnessing a more dangerous, more complex, more global form of terrorism than we have seen before. We had a detailed discussion about our respective roles in Iraq and the support that we're providing to the Abadi Government, to build capacity within the Iraqi security forces. I detailed Australia's involvement. It is proportionate; it is limited by time and most certainly limited to military training and participation in Coalition air strikes. We had a very useful discussion about how we believe both our countries can contribute to the defeat of this terrorist organisation and end the suffering and misery of the people of both Syria and Iraq and ensure that it doesn't spread beyond that part of the world.

We also had a very productive discussion on bilateral issues. As I indicated to His Excellency there are about 10 000 visas issued each year to Iranians to come to Australia. About 8000 short term visas for tourism and educational purposes and over 2000 more permanent arrangements for family reunion and for skilled visas. And we also discussed the challenge of the people smuggling trade that has been revived in recent years, but under the current Government in Australia has been dismantled to a considerable degree. There is the issue of returns and the Foreign Minister and I had a very positive discussion about that. Given the level of exchange between citizens of our two countries, given some of the challenges that we have, in terms of human trafficking, it has been decided to continue our discussions at an officials’ level through a Consular Dialogue. I have invited Iranian officials to visit Australia as soon as possible so that we can continue this discussion and continue the positive steps that we have taken today to deal with these issues.

We also had a very constructive discussion about human rights and we have agreed to continue that dialogue in the spirit of cooperation that's been demonstrated through my visit here and through the conversations that we will have today. And I want to thank the Foreign Minister for his very warm welcome.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER [Farsi - Not translated]

JOURNALIST Good Morning. Minister Zarif and Ms Bishop, there's a public issue you could make on this. Australia has army instructors in Iraq, the number’s just been increased slightly. We also have a strong force off strike aircraft involved in the campaign. What is Iran's view of Australia's involvement and the scale of it? Do you believe it's useful? Helpful? Would you like to see more or less? And Iran is playing a major role in Iraq in training Shia militia groups. Daesh's campaign in Iraq was extraordinarily brutal, and there have been reports recently that there have been reciprocating attacks, atrocities by some militia members. Can Iran do anything to keep that under control?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF Well, I think the fight against Daesh and terrorism in Iraq should be [inaudible] and managed by the Iraqi Government. And we respect the wishes of the Iraqi Government in that regard and we are there in cooperation with the Iraqi Government, not with any specific groups in Iraq, but with the Iraqi Government. And anything we do in Iraq is [indistinct] Iraqi Government. We believe that there is a much needed international support for the Government of Iraq and for the fight against extremism and terrorism. It should be across the board. It should not be selective and should not be based on political considerations. It should address both the financial as well as the tactical and recruitment sources of these various terrorist groups that are operating in Iraq and Syria. As I said it should be across the board and inclusive and not selective. And we are with the Iraqi Government and support the Iraqi Government in whatever decision it takes in regard to these operations. We believe [indistinct] alone will not be sufficient to deal with the problem of extremism and terrorism but a larger global campaign against such areas will be required.

As far as atrocities are concerned, any attack against civilians in Iraq is not acceptable to us. Nor is it acceptable to the Iraqi Government and that is the message that we have been sending, all across to various groups in Iraq and that is the hope that we have, that the atrocities that have been committed by Daesh and terrorist groups in Iraq will stop and will not be reciprocated.

JULIE BISHOP Thank you for the question. The Foreign Minister and I discussed the shared common purpose that we have in Iraq and that is to support the Iraqi Government, to build its capacity to take back its territory that's been claimed by Daesh and to protect its citizens. We have a shared and common purpose in supporting the Iraqi Government to be inclusive, to be strong, to be stable and to have the capability to defend their own territory. We discussed the role of the militia., We discussed in detail the role that the Australian military forces will take in Iraq and we made it plain that we'd have a time frame, that our mandate is limited to that the Iraqi Government has asked of us and we have agreed that our respective presence in Iraq is at the invitation of and with the consent of the Iraqi Government. I believe that with the efforts of Iran, with the efforts of the Coalition supporting the Iraqi Government we have the capability to defeat this terrorist organisation that is inflicting so much harm in this region.

And I also made the point, that His Excellency indicated earlier, that there are Australian citizens, indeed there are citizens from about 80 or 90 countries around the world who have been drawn to this conflict and it is in our national interest to prevent Australian citizens from leaving, to prevent Australian citizens from taking part in this conflict, and to defeat Daesh, and we will do that through our support of the Iraqi Government.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER [Farsi - not translated]

JOURNALIST Thank you very much for the opportunity Mr Zarif, Ms Bishop, it's an honour, thank you. First of all Ms Bishop, I'd like to welcome you to Iran. In 13 years it is the first time an Australian official visited us. So I'd like to know what the reason behind your visit. What prompted this visit actually and does this mean that you are turning a new page in your relationships with Iran and will you look forward to the sanctions being lifted, the sanctions against Iran. Mr Zarif, the question I have for you is about the Secretary of State and the [inaudible]. They keep repeating that the military option is still on the table, despite the fact that negotiations between Iran and [inaudible] and they also seem to have a positive trend. What is your comment? Thank you very much.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF Let me just make one point, all [indistinct]. I think everybody has understood and recognised that the military option is non-existent. It doesn't work against Iran and its better to stop making those statements. We don't pay much attention to them because we know that there is none, and the fact that we are negotiating indicates that everybody understands that they only way to deal with Iran is through recognition of Iran's wide and mutual respect and I think that will provide a far better answer than getting engaged in disastrous adventures.

JULIE BISHOP Thank you for your welcome and thank you for the question. The reason I am here is because your very gracious Foreign Minister invited me here. And I was pleased to be able to accept and the opportunity to visit at this time was one I wanted to take, because of Australia's involvement in Iraq. There are many issues that we needed to discuss in relation to that matter. There are bilateral issues as I indicated earlier that we wished to discuss, and I'm pleased that my visit here has led to further engagement through a Consular Dialogue which we hope will lead to a Memorandum of Understanding, or at least a Framework within which we can operate to discuss two way engagement on a whole range of issues. And I'm very pleased that there has been progress made. We discussed the P5 plus one negotiations with Iran, and of course should a balanced reciprocal mutually beneficial agreement be reached then the issue of sanctions will follow that. So I believed it was time for an Australian Foreign Minister to be in Iran and I was pleased to accept your Foreign Minister's very kind invitation.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER [Farsi - not translated]

Media enquiries

  • Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555