JOURNALIST: The foreign ministers of 68 countries are currently in Washington meeting about the international fight against Islamic State and of course news of the London terrorist attack struck the gathering like a lightning bolt. Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is one of those there. She spoke to me from Washington earlier.
Julie Bishop, what's been the reaction there in Washington among all the gathered foreign ministers and is there any doubt amongst all of you that this attack was motivated by Islamic State?
JULIE BISHOP: Leigh, the foreign ministers gathered here in Washington were shocked and dismayed and saddened to hear of the attack in London. About five people have been killed and many injured, and we all expressed our deepest sympathy with the British people and the British Government and the British authorities are treating it as a terrorist incident and it was noted that it had all the hallmarks of other attacks that have taken place in Europe, notably in Nice but elsewhere. So we were joined in solidarity with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson who was here, in expressing our condolences and our deep concern about this attack.
JOURNALIST: Is Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs going to elevate the travel warning for Australians in London?
JULIE BISHOP: The Department has already referred to this incident on our Smartraveller website, so we’ve already amended our travel advice to reflect this incident and to give the advice about being vigilant and aware of such incidents that can occur in public places and places of mass gathering. There has been one foreign national who was resident in Australia who was injured by the vehicle, I understand, and has been hospitalised, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is reaching out to her for consular support should she need it. But my information at this stage is that no Australians have been affected. A foreign national resident in Australia has been hospitalised.
JOURNALIST: Terrorism experts have noted that recently there's been a shift away from mass orchestrated terrorist attacks, towards attacks on softer targets, using improvised weapons. This isn't the first time, for example, that we've seen a vehicle used to target pedestrians. There really is no way for governments or authorities to prevent those sort of attacks, is there?
JULIE BISHOP: It is extremely difficult to detect what is called a lone wolf attack. This is a person who for various reasons decides to take it upon themselves to attack innocent people, and that's what appears to have occurred in London. The investigation is underway so we don't know the identity or the motive of the attacker, but most certainly we are seeing more of these attacks. We have seen them in Europe and elsewhere, and it just means that our security and intelligence and law enforcement agencies have to be ever more vigilant to respond and to try and prevent these attacks. And I do pay tribute to the British police and the British authorities for their rapid response. Nevertheless, people still were killed and many injured in this attack, seemingly by one person using a motor vehicle.
JOURNALIST: Is it just a matter of time until an attack like this happens in Australia?
JULIE BISHOP: Leigh, we have reviewed our security arrangements, we work closely with the state and federal police, we ensure that our security an law enforcement and intelligence agencies have the resources they need, and we passed laws in our parliament to ensure that our security situation is as safe as it can be, but I'm afraid this can occur anywhere, any time.
JOURNALIST: You told the Federal Parliament earlier this week that the Coalition against Islamic State is at a pivotal point. Why is this a pivotal point?
JULIE BISHOP: At this meeting of the Coalition we noted that progress is being made militarily against ISIS, in Iraq in particular, and you will be aware that the Australian Defence Force has provided a significant number of personnel to help train the Iraqi security forces. Those security forces are now engaged in an operation to retake the city of Mosul from ISIS and there is some success. In fact, Prime Minister Abadi was confident that they would be able to retake Mosul within the next few months. So progress is being made. Then we have to turn to Syria, where a similar operation will have to be undertaken in Raqqa. But once ISIS is defeated, or once ISIS is degraded, we then have to find political reconciliation that lasts in Iraq and a political solution in Syria because there is a civil war raging in Syria. So it's at a pivotal point in the sense that while we're progressing militarily, there are still significant challenges ahead of us to find a lasting peace in both Syria and Iraq.
JOURNALIST: The US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pointed out at the meeting you're attending that the US has put up three quarters of the military resources in the fight against IS and that other countries will need to increase their contributions. Australia will be expected to do more, won't it?
JULIE BISHOP: Australia is already one of the largest contributors to the military effort. We have about 1000 defence personnel in Syria and Iraq, taking part in airstrikes over Syria and training and advising and assisting the Iraqi security forces in Iraq.
JOURNALIST: But does the Trump Administration expect more from Australia in addition to that?
JULIE BISHOP: There was no request made of us. As I said, we're already one of the largest military contributors. There was a plea for more humanitarian funding but particularly to the countries that will benefit most from the defeat of ISIS in the Middle East - the Gulf countries and the Middle East countries. But if there were a request from the United States, a specific request, of course we would consider it because it's in our interests to defeat ISIS at its source in Syria and Iraq, to prevent the returning foreign terrorist fighters from being able to carry out attacks on their way home, in our region or indeed in Australia.
JOURNALIST: We’re out of time Foreign Minister. Thank you for joining us this evening.
JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure.
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