Overnight, Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop addressed the United Nations Security Council in New York about the situation in Iraq and Australia’s reasons for joining the US-led attacks on Islamic State.
This is an edited version of her address.
We must send a clear signal of the international community’s strong support for Iraq.
The attacks by ISIL have brutalised the Iraqi population and shocked us all. Atrocities against women and girls and against vulnerable minorities and security force opponents, as well as the barbaric use and then beheading of captured journalists, an aid worker and others, to advance their depraved agenda, are utterly despicable.
Who can forget the grotesque images shown around the globe of an Australian child, not more than nine years old, standing with his father, an ISIL leader, holding up the severed head of a soldier? This showed, beyond any ambiguity, the kind of hideous acts of which this group is capable.
Australia condemns absolutely ISIL and its ilk, their barbarism and their ideology. The international community cannot, with any conscience, turn away. We cannot leave the people and Government of Iraq to face this cruelty alone.
ISIL’s actions leave in no doubt the severity of the threat to the region and to the wider world. It poses a threat to Australia, our friends in South East Asia, and beyond. We have seen this before – extremists, foreign fighters, returning home – responsible for terrorist attacks in our region. Australia’s security and law enforcement agencies have taken steps in recent days against a group in our country inspired by ISIL who were seeking to emulate their brutality in Australia. ISIL is a threat to the fundamental values of the international community and an affront to our shared sense of humanity.
Australia has announced our preparedness to do more to help Iraq and its partners in this fight. In cooperation with Iraq, we are deploying a military force to the region for possible involvement in a United States-led effort to support Iraq against ISIL. We are willing to provide strike, early warning and air-to-air refuelling aircraft, and a Special Forces Task Group to advise and assist the Iraqi Security Forces.
This is a prudent and proportionate response to the threat posed by this murderous terrorist organisation.
Efforts to effectively end ISIL’s ravages and territorial ambitions will necessarily involve measures to cut off ISIL’s support network, including the flow of fighters, arms and funding. There is more we can all do. Australia is introducing legislative reforms to address the threat from home-grown terrorism and is intensifying our counter-terrorism engagement with others. We urge other Member States to do the same.
Political measures are also needed. Formation of a new Iraqi Government is a positive step towards addressing issues that contributed to ISIL’s advance. Australia supports Prime Minister Al-Abadi as he seeks to form an inclusive government capable of rebuilding a stable and cohesive Iraq that can counter the forces of violent extremism.
The security situation in Iraq remains grave. The humanitarian needs, including of innocent women and girls in conflict zones, are multiplying. Nearly two million people are believed to be internally displaced. These people are vulnerable. Their protection needs are urgent. ISIL has explicitly targeted minorities and also women and children for sexual violence. There must be consequences for the perpetrators.
Australia will help address the needs specifically of displaced women and girls, and victims of gender-based violence, and provide a further $2 million to help the United Nations Population Fund to scale up delivery of reproductive and other health care. Australia has provided $5 million in emergency humanitarian funding to Iraq and we have undertaken air drops of emergency supplies to besieged communities on Mount Sinjar and in Amerli. We have also provided around $130 million in humanitarian aid for those in dire need in Syria, and assisted Lebanon and Jordan face the outpouring of refugees across their borders.
The humanitarian crisis must end. The international community cannot stand by and do nothing in the face of ISIL’s threat to humanity. This is why Australia is joining international partners to assist the Iraqi Government in its fight against ISIL.
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