AUSTRALIAN FOREIGN MINISTER JULIE BISHOP: Ladies and gentlemen, today we have welcomed to Sydney and to AUSMIN, Secretaries John Kerry and Chuck Hagel. And this is the second AUSMIN meeting that the four principals here have participated in. The United States alliance is the most important security relationship for Australia, and AUSMIN is an annual opportunity for us to take stock of this relationship. And today's discussion was broad in scope. We were frank in our exchanges, and there was a clear instinct for collaboration across a wide area of endeavor.
There's a desire to share the burden of implementing our mutual vision and mutual goal of regional and global peace and prosperity, security, and stability. At a bilateral level, we signed the force posture initiative, the formal legally binding document about the presence of U.S. Marines in the north of our country, and we focused particularly on the humanitarian disaster relief aspects of having the assistance of the U.S. in our region, which is sadly prone to natural disasters and other tragedies.
At a regional level, we discussed the tensions in the South China Sea. Secretary Kerry and I have just returned from the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum where the South China Sea was discussed at length, and we went over some of those issues, but we also discussed the tension from the Korean peninsula and a mutual desire to see North Korea denuclearize in a verifiable way and return to six-party talks.
We discussed the regional architecture and the need for the East Asia Summit to be the premier regional forum. It has the right mandate, the right membership to discuss matters of regional strategic significance. We talked about the importance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This is where the U.S. rebalance finds its economic expression and how important the TPP will be to opening up and liberalizing markets in our region. We discussed the emergence of China and other major powers in our region.
Broadly, in the wake of the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, we talked about the situation in eastern Ukraine and Russia's intentions and the behavior of Russia in recent months and weeks involving the breach of sovereignty in Ukraine and elsewhere. We had a long discussion on the Middle East and the significant conflicts there, whether it be Syria, Iraq, or in Gaza, and we also talked about Afghanistan and our commitment to Afghanistan post-2014.
A considerable focus of our discussion was on counterterrorism and more specifically on the issue of foreign fighters. People going to fight in conflicts around the world, leaving their countries, going to Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, are becoming radicalized and taking part in extremist terrorist activities is, in fact, an international problem. It's a concern for Australia. It's a concern for the United States. But it's a topic that's raised increasingly in countries in our region and across Europe.
It's an international problem, but the barbaric ideology that these extremists embrace is, in fact, a threat to our way of life, a threat to our values, and we discussed ways that we can bring this issue to international attention. So a major focus on the issue of foreign fighters.
Overall, it was a most productive, a most useful exchange from Australia's point of view. We came up with a number of significant initiatives. The communique sets up the detail of it, but I want to thank Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel for making the trip down under. We are always delighted to see you in our part of the world. You've been in Asia and Southeast Asia on so many occasions, and we always want you to come to Australia and count us in on your discussions. The relationship has never been stronger, and we have appreciated your commitment and focus on issues that are of mutual concern and of concern to Australia's national interests.
I'll ask the minister for defense say a few words and then pass over to our American friends.
AUSTRALIAN MINISTER OF DEFENSE DAVID JOHNSTON: Well, thank you, Julie. To Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel, firstly, thank you for the magnanimous, generous and gracious way that you've entered into our discussions. I must say, I know I speak for Julie, it's an absolute delight to be with you in your busy schedules to discuss matters that are regionally significant, but also in the wider area of world events, the problems we both are worried about, how best to confront them and how best Australia can help the United States and its very excellent leadership, particularly in this region.
Part of that is, of course, the rebalance, and we're delighted to have 1,200 -- approximately 1,200 U.S. Marines in Darwin. That, ladies and gentlemen, is going very seamlessly, very well, and it is a classic win-win situation.
So today's discussions have gone very cordially, very constructively, and very frankly, as you would expect with partners and friends of long standing. So the rebalance has been, from our point of view, delivering the Marines into Darwin, very, very successful, so that our region has, of course, benefited, and I reiterate this to the secretaries, benefited from the stability of the past 20, 30 years. That stability has been delivered by U.S. leadership.
And, of course, the booming middle class of Southeast and East Asia has been the end dividend of that stability. And so today, we've enjoyed discussing the challenges that we perceive coming over the horizon in the future, matters such as counterterrorism, foreign fighters, which we both, as two countries, have to deal with. Can I say that both Secretary Hagel and Secretary Kerry bring an enormous amount of wisdom and wit to our discussions? And I must say to you, the discussions have been most enjoyable.
We share interoperability across so many fronts. We have very large numbers of people embedded in the United States in the U.S. military. We've got 400 people still in Afghanistan working with the Americans and our other ISAF partnership going forward.
I want to end on that note by just saying thank you very much for the trust. You know, when we're doing things together in the defense space, trust is a really important part of that, and trust leads to great friendship, and I think we have great friendship. And I thank you both for that.
SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: Well, thank you very much, Julie. Good afternoon to all of you. And let me just -- let me begin by saying that I am really delighted to be here with Secretary Hagel at the Australia-United States Ministerial Meeting. This is my first U.S. -- AUSMIN, as we call it, in Australia, and I really want to thank Foreign Minister Bishop and Defense Minister Johnston for their unbelievably warm welcome over the course of these two days.
We had very productive dinner discussion last night, just over the way from here, and today we both joined together in thanking Governor-General Cosgrove for opening up his magnificent residence to us. It afforded a really superb venue to be able to sit here quietly and be able to really dig in, in very personal ways, to very complicated issues. And we thank them for this special venue and special friendship that goes with it.
Secretary Hagel and I both want to begin any comments that we make here today with an expression of our deepest condolences to the families and the loved ones of the 48 Australians who lost their lives in the Flight 17, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. We both want to affirm to Australia and to the world that we absolutely demand, as does Australia, justice for this unconscionable crime. And just as we stand together on so many issues, from the Asia Pacific to the Middle East to Afghanistan and beyond, we will see this through together.
I also had the very good fortune to work with our Australian friends for many years, 29 years in the United States Senate and a number of years as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, so when Secretary Hagel and I served in Vietnam, at slightly different times, but we both served there, we also fought alongside, side-by-side, with our Australian brothers who were great soldiers and great friends.
In fact, Australian men and American men and women, men and women on both sides, have fought side-by-side in every major conflict since World War I. And we're proud of the friendship and the trust, as Minister Johnston was just saying, that has grown out of this longtime relationship.
I was very privileged to join Secretary Hagel and Foreign Minister Bishop and Defense Minister Johnston last year at Arlington National Cemetery, where we honored this special bond between Australians and the United States, a bond that can only be forged through the sacrifice of war, which we both understand.
So I thank Australia at this moment particularly for stepping up yet again with their offer of humanitarian assistance in Iraq at this moment of crisis. The new Iraqi leadership has a very difficult challenge. It has to regain the confidence of its citizens by governing inclusively, but also by taking steps to demonstrate more resolve. And we're going to continue to stand with the Iraqi people during this time of transition.
And though we live in different hemispheres and at opposite ends of the globe, the United States could ask for no better friend and no closer ally than Australia. Australia is a vital partner in so many different endeavors. It is vital as we deepen the U.S. economic engagement throughout the Asia Pacific, as we engage in the rebalance, as both ministers have referred to it, which will bring the United States even more to the effort to help create a larger economic transformation in the region and to bring about a real law-based structure, where everybody understands the rules and where it is a race to the top, not to the bottom.
We also are working hard together to try to complete a critical component of that race to the top, which is the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. We also discussed, as has been mentioned by both ministers, difficult regional and global security challenges. We don't need to struggle to find commonality in our understanding of the fact that we are living in one of the most complicated moments of transformation and transition all across this planet.
Instant communications, massive numbers of mobile devices, massive amounts of information moving at lightning speed around the globe, informing everybody about everything all of the time, and that has changed politics and it has changed international relations. It raises expectations among people all over the world, and it challenges politics in terms of building consensus around decisions.
So we faced a lot of these challenges together in today's world, and that is why it is so important to have the kind of discussions that we had here today, where we laid out every one of those challenges and try to figure out how we do this better, how can we have greater impact, how do we bring more people to the table in order to effect change? It has enabled both of our countries to stand with the people of Ukraine, support long-term progress in Afghanistan, reduce tensions in the South China Sea, collaborate in the United Nations Security Council on everything from Iran to Syria to restricting trade in illicit small arms and weapons and even in our fellow human beings.
Today's session allowed us to consult and coordinate in depth on these issues and on the challenges that we face in Iraq and Gaza. We also agreed, in conjunction with our discussion about the foreign fighters that July raised a moment ago, that we are going to work together to assemble a compendium of the best practices in the world today regarding those foreign fighters, and we intend to join together in order to bring this to the United Nations meeting next month and put it on the agenda in a way that will elicit support from source countries, as well as those countries of concern.
Earlier today, as you all know, we signed a force posture agreement that will further strengthen and deepen the U.S.-Australian defense relationship, and we agreed to expand our trilateral cooperation with Japan. So you can see that we covered a range of very important issues in the Asia Pacific region, including our commitment to the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
And the United States -- I want to make this clear -- is absolutely prepared to improve relations with North Korea, if North Korea will honor its international obligations. It's that simple. But make no mistake -- we are also prepared to increase pressure, including through strong sanctions and further isolation, if North Korea chooses the path of confrontation.
So I join Secretary Hagel in thanking Foreign Minister Bishop and Defense Minister Johnston for very productive discussions over the past day. And we all look forward to continuing our work together in the years to come in order to address these complex challenges.
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: John, thank you, and I, too, appreciate an opportunity to be with Secretary Kerry here for the AUSMIN meetings that we are concluding this afternoon.
I want to add my thanks, as well, to our hosts, Minister Bishop, Minister Johnston, and also to Governor-General Cosgrove for his hospitality (off mic) so, thank you.
On the visit to the United States in 1960, the great Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies said that strength is admirable, but only for the responsibilities it accepts and discharges. America and Australia in this historic alliance has always, always sought to live up to those responsibilities around the world.
Today's agenda for the U.S.-Australia alliance, as you have heard, spanned issues ranging from the South China Sea to Iraq, where Secretary Kerry and I expressed our appreciation for Australia's offer to contribute to the humanitarian relief operations (off mic) America is prepared to intensify its security cooperation as Iraq undertakes and makes progress toward political reform.
We also addressed the crisis in Ukraine, as has been noted, and Australia's tragic loss of 38 citizens and residents aboard MH17. And as I have said, as Secretary Kerry has expressed our condolences to the people of Australia and especially the families of those who were lost in that tragedy. America will continue to work with Australia as we have said clearly and plainly to provide requested support and assistance.
Today, we have reinforced the foundation of our alliance's defense and security cooperation by -- as Secretary Kerry noted -- signing the U.S.-Australia Force Posture Agreement. This long-term agreement on rotational deployment of U.S. Marines in Darwin and American airmen in northern Australia will broaden and deepen our alliance's contributions to regional security and advance America's ongoing strategic rebalance to the Asia Pacific.
And today's AUSMIN, having just come from New Delhi and having consulted closely with our Japanese and Korean allies and ASEAN defense ministers, I see a new committed resolve to work together, to work together to build a security system across this Indo-Pacific region, recognizing the independent sovereignty of nations, respecting that sovereignty, but also recognizing the common interests that we all have for a stable, peaceful, secure world.
The U.S. Australian alliance is spurring this progress and will remain a bedrock for a stable and secure order. Along with Secretary Kerry, let me again thank our hosts, Minister Bishop, Minister Johnston, and Governor-General Cosgrove, for hosting this year's AUSMIN, and what they continue to do as we continue to collaborate and work together on some of the great issues of our time. As Secretary Kerry has noted, we live in an immensely complicated world, but a world that is still full of hope and promise, if we endeavor to bring resolute, strong leadership, leadership that is committed to these virtues and values and principles that we all share, and living up to the highest responsibilities, as Prime Minister Menzies once said.
Thank you very much.
STAFF: Okay, thank you (off mic) four questions (off mic)
Q: Laura Jayes from Sky News. Secretary Kerry, Secretary Hagel, thank you. Ministers, thank you. I wanted to first go to Russia, and our Australian government has talked about greater sanctions on Russia, leaving that option opened (off mic) perhaps. Secretary Kerry, is that a path you would like to see Australia go down? There's also the question of Vladimir Putin attending the G-20 summit. I wondered if you have a comment on that.
And also, as I guess a little bit out of that direct realm, China in all of this, we've seen the U.S. and E.U. impose quite strong sanctions against Russia in the last couple of months, but China has helped to dilute that in some ways. If you, Secretary Kerry, could address those questions, also (off mic)
SEC. KERRY: Well, thank you very much. On the subject of sanctions, with respect to Russia, we are very understanding of our friend, Australia's, deep, deep anger and its need for justice with respect to what has happened.
This is an unconscionable crime on a huge international order that findings already without the full investigation being done, and we are pressing for a full investigation, because nothing is complete until you have a full investigation. But there is no question -- and we've said this publicly previously -- but that this type of weapon and all the evidence of it was seen on our imagery. We saw the (off mic) we saw the trajectory, we saw the hit, we saw this airplane disappear from a radar screen. So there's really no mystery about where it came from and where these weapons have come from.
But we need to have the complete investigation, obviously, to legitimize whatever steps are going to be taken as we go down the road, and that's why we're all pressing so hard for that. The foreign minister of Australia traveled to New York, made an eloquent plea, working with our ambassador and others there. Frans Timmermans, you know, the Dutch foreign minister, spoke eloquently about what had happened.
And the world can't just sort of move by this or gloss by it. People need to remember this, because holding people accountable is essential not just to justice for what happened, but to deterrence and prevention in the future, and we don't want to see these kinds of things ever repeated again.
So we're open, but we haven't made any decisions. I'm not sure Australia has either, yet. We need to see what's happening. But our hope and prayer -- our hope is that in the next days and weeks we could find a way for President Poroshenko and Ukraine to be able to work with the Russians to provide the humanitarian assistance necessary in these to facilitate the thoroughness of the investigation, to begin to bring the separatists to the degree that they are Ukrainian into the political process, and for those who are not Ukrainian, they need to leave the country, and there needs to be a process worked out where the supplies stop coming in, both in money and arms and support and people, and Ukraine is allowed to protect its sovereignty and define its future. Our hope is that that could happen through the diplomatic process, but we've all learned that we need to be cautious and strong at the same time in our responses and clear about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.
With respect to the G-20 summit, no decisions have been made at this point in time. I think a lot of the attitudes about -- about that issue from the various countries attending can, frankly, be determined and impacted to some degree on what happens in these next days and weeks.
And, finally, with respect to China and what is going on, we have said again and again that -- we just had a Strategic and Economic Dialogue in China. Secretary Jack Lew of the Treasury and I were there. We had two days of discussions. And we made it very clear with China that we welcome the rise of China as a global partner, hopefully, as a powerful economy, as a full participating, constructive member of the international community, and we want China to participate in constructive ways, whether it's in the South China Sea or with respect to Japan and South Korea, with North Korea, with other issues that we face.
We are not seeking conflict and confrontation. And our hope is that China will likewise take advantage of the opportunities that are in front of it to be that cooperative partner. And so there are always differences, shades of -- you know, there are differences with respect to certain issues, and we've agreed to try to find those things where we can really cooperate. We're cooperating on Afghanistan. We're cooperating on nonproliferation with respect to Iran. We're cooperating to get the chemical weapons out of Syria. We're cooperating on counterterrorism. We're cooperating on nuclear weaponry and on the reduction of nuclear arms.
There are plenty of big issues in which we cooperate with Russia even now, every day. And our hope is that on those things where we've obviously had some disagreements with China or with Russia, that we can both find a diplomatic path forward, because everybody in the world understands the world will be better off if great power nations are finding ways to cooperate, not to confront each other.
MIN. BISHOP: If I could put this question of sanctions in context, MH17 was a commercial airplane flying in commercial airspace carrying 298 civilians, passengers. The numbers included 80 children. And this plane was shot down, we believe, by a surface-to-air missile just inside eastern Ukraine.
The deaths of so many people, including 38 Australian citizens and residents, was shocking. And the implications for international aviation are profound. So after completing our humanitarian mission of removing the remains and personal effects from the crash site, we are now focused on the investigation into how this came to be, how this plane was shot down, and who did it, because those culpable for creating the circumstances or for actually causing the downing of this plane must be held to account. And (off mic) of our citizens demands answers. They must be held to account, the perpetrators, and brought to justice.
All the while, when Australian and Dutch teams, unarmed, police humanitarian teams were seeking to get to the crash site, all the while Russia was supplying more armed personnel, more heavy weaponry over the border into eastern Ukraine. They didn't cease, but, in fact, increased their efforts. And instead of listening to international concerns about a cease-fire and the need for a humanitarian corridor for us to conclude our work, on the very day that Australia was holding a national day of mourning to grieve for loss of so many Australian lives, Russia chose to impose sanctions on Australia through an embargo on our agricultural exports.
We are rightly focused on the investigation, supporting the Netherlands, Malaysia, Belgium and Ukraine as part of an investigation team. But on the question of sanctions, we will consider the options available to us, but our focus at present is to bring closure to the families who are still grieving over this barbaric act of shooting down a plane that killed their loved ones.
As far as the G-20 is concerned, as Secretary Kerry indicated, there's been no decision. The G-20 is an economic forum. There would have to be a consensus view as to whether or not steps should be taken in relation to President Putin's presence here in Australia.
On China, I must say that China was extremely supportive of our resolution in the United Nations Security Council. As you'll be aware, it was a unanimous resolution. It was supported by all 15 members of the U.N. Security Council. And China has suffered a great loss through the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, and Australia has done what we can to help in that search effort, and I have committed to Foreign Minister Wang Yi last weekend that Australia will continue to help search for that missing plane. So China grieves with us over the loss of people aboard airplanes that have crashed or disappeared in such extraordinary circumstances.
On the question of China's support beyond MH17, Russia's behavior in recent months has been to breach the sovereignty of Ukraine, a neighbor, and this is not behavior that China one would think would condone. It's behavior that China has pointed out to others that would be unacceptable if it were to occur in China's sphere of the world.
So we'll continue to consult, discuss with China the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian tensions, the conflict, the need for cease-fire, the need for humanitarian assistance, and hope that China sees it as we do -- an unacceptable breach of Ukraine's sovereignty -- and urge Russia to stop the flow of weapons, stop the flow of armed personnel.
Russia claims to be concerned about a humanitarian situation in Ukraine. Well, the first thing it should do is stop sending weapons and armed personnel to the so-called separatists.
Q: Gopal -- Gopal Ratnam, I'm a reporter with Bloomberg News. Questions on Iraq. First to Secretary Hagel, what kind of direct military assistance is the Pentagon prepared to offer to Kurds? And does this include sending heavy weapons to them?
And if I could ask Secretary Kerry, could you talk a little bit more about what the United States is prepared to do once there's a new Iraqi government? And, both of you, do you share any concern that directly aiding and supporting the Kurds could potentially encourage them to break away from a united Iraq in the future?
And to the Australian officials, the U.S. has said that it will assist and train Iraqi troops to combat ISIL. And have you been asked and are you prepared to send any of your troops to train the Iraqi forces? Thank you.
SEC. HAGEL: The United States government is working with the Iraqi government, the Iraqi security forces, to get military equipment to the Peshmerga. That is Iraqi military equipment. We are -- American forces through CENTCOM are helping get that equipment to Erbil.
As to your question regarding a breakaway status of the Kurds into an independent Kurdistan, I think it's important that -- and we have taken this position, and Secretary Kerry, who's been directly involved in this, may want to amplify on this point, but it's important to note that America's position is a unified Iraq. You all know that the Council of Representatives announced today that it had selected a new prime minister, a new Shia prime minister. That completes the new senior officers that the Council of Representatives have put forth, a new speaker of the parliament, a new president, a new prime minister.
That's good news. Now, the next step has to move forward in getting that government ratified and in place, and we look to forward to working with that new government.
SEC. KERRY: Well -- sorry, go ahead, no, please.
MIN. JOHNSTON: With respect to the Australian contribution to those people who are in the mountains around Erbil, we are going to participate and deliver humanitarian relief in the nature of being able to drop supplies to them. That is a skill and capability we have long held probably since East Timor. And that's the role that we'll carry out. We'll fit into and be part of the planning of the United States and other partners who want to assist on that humanitarian basis. And that's the way we'll go forward.
SEC. KERRY: No, no, no, that's important and I appreciate it. Let me just begin by congratulating Dr. Haider Al-Abadi on his nomination, which now offers him an opportunity to be able to form a government over the next 30 days. And we urge them to form a new cabinet as swiftly as possible, and the U.S. does stand ready to fully support a new and inclusive Iraqi government, particularly in its fight against ISIL.
Now, I'm not going to get into the details today before a new prime minister is there and a government is there, and we've talked to them, and we know what they think their needs are and how they define the road ahead. But I will tell you that, without any question, we are prepared to consider additional political, economic, and security options as Iraq starts to build a new government and very much calculated to try to help stabilize the security situation, to expand economic development, and to strengthen the democratic institutions. Those will be the guidelines.
We also would note that there are already a significant group of programs in place under the strategic framework agreement. And we with a new government in place would absolutely look to provide additional options. We would consider those options for sure in an effort to strengthen an effort.
Let me be very clear. We have always wanted an inclusive, participatory government that represents the interests of Shia, Kurd, Sunni, minorities, all Iraqis. That's the goal. And our hope is that, when there is a new government, we will all of us in the international community be able to work with them in order to guarantee that outstanding issues that have just stood there absolutely frozen for years now, like the oil revenue law or the constitutional reform, all of these things need to be resolved. And that will really determine the road ahead.
Now, with respect to the Kurds, we welcome increased coordination and support between the Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish forces. That is taking place right now. It's quite unique. And we think that's a signal of a growing potential for cooperation between Baghdad and Erbil.
So as we said last week, ISIL has secured certain heavy weaponry, and the Kurds need additional arms, and what is happening now is, through the government in Baghdad, some of that assistance is being provided directly to the Kurds. I think that raises as many questions about the possibility of greater cooperation as it does with the possibility of further efforts for separation.
What (off mic) from my own meetings with President Barzani recently, he is very committed to this transition in Baghdad, in Iraq, in the government. He is committed to trying to be a force for a strong federal government that works for all Iraqis, and that's the only subject on the table at this point in time.
Q: Secretaries, ministers, Greg Jennett from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. This is to any or all of you, but perhaps starting with you, Secretary Kerry. Following on from that question on Iraq, and noting that you don't want to get into details, but that stabilizing security is an option that the U.S. is prepared to explore with the government there, what are the circumstances in which the U.S. could look to allies, including Australia, to support security with further military commitments? If you could outline at least the parameters in which you would start that conversation.
And also, on (off mic) jihadists from the Middle East, what is the shared approach? Practically, what sort of initiatives are we talking about (off mic) before prosecution, after incarceration, before interrogation, is there any example of the types of actions you'd like to see the world take jointly?
SEC. KERRY: Well, let me let -- let me let a couple of my colleagues -- I'll turn to Julie to address the issue on the foreign fighters, because we had a pretty robust discussion, and perhaps even Mr. Johnston and Hagel want to tackle that. So let me just answer the first part of the question, and they can answer the second.
The question is, how can we look towards this issue of stabilization and military assistance? And you said, where would the discussion begin? Well, let me tell you in the simplest terms where the discussion begins. There will be no reintroduction of American combat forces into Iraq. That is the beginning of the discussion.
This is a fight that Iraqis need to join on behalf of Iraq, and our hope is -- and the reason President Obama has been so clear about wanting to get the government formation before beginning to tackle ISIL and in the most significant way excepting the kind of emergency circumstances that have arisen is because if you don't have a government that is inclusive and that works, nothing else will work, plain and simply.
So you have to have a government that can begin to be inclusive where the forces of Iraq are not a personal force defined by one particular sect and sworn to allegiance to one particular leader, but they truly represent Iraq and Iraq's future to broad-based threats. And I think that everybody understands that is the direction that we have to go.
Now, lots of countries who have an interest in stability in the region have already offered different kinds of assistance of one kind or another. But nobody I think is looking towards a return to the road that we've traveled. What we're really looking for here is a way to support Iraq, support their forces (off mic) training or equipment or assistance of one kind or another, that can help them to stand on their own two feet and defend their nation. That's the goal. That's where the conversation begins, whoever is prime minister, and I think everybody is crystal-clear about that.
We are convinced that (off mic) unified effort by Iraqis. And particularly if there is a return to the kind of localized efforts that existed in the Sons of Anbar or the Iraqi or the Anbar Awakening, as it's referred to, that there will be plenty of opportunity here for a push-back against ISIL forces, which is why the restoration of the -- of the unified inclusive government is so critical as a starting point.
I think the president felt that that process was well enough along the way, with the selection of a speaker, the selection of a president, and the clear movement of people towards a candidate for prime minister, that he felt comfortable, that the urgency of the situation of protecting the potential of people moving towards Erbil or the extraordinary atrocities that were beginning to take place with respect to the Yazidis, that it was critical to begin to move in that regard. And that's why he made that decision, and I think it was a wise decision.
MIN. BISHOP: Australia has long joined the international community in calling for more inclusive government in Iraq. And the political instability that we have seen that hasn't addressed the concerns of the Sunnis, hasn't addressed the concerns of minorities is, of course, a matter of grave concern.
So politically stability is the key for Iraq in countering the influence and impact of these extremist groups, including ISIL, and that brings me to the issue of foreign fighters. The Australian media has this week published some truly shocking photographs -- I assume have been verified -- of an Australian family in the Middle East holding up a severed head. A 7-year-old child is involved in this barbarous display of ideology. And they're Australian citizens.
So when the government says that there is a real domestic security threat from the phenomenon of foreign fighters, we have evidence that there are a significant number of Australian citizens who are taking part in activities in Iraq and parts of Syria, extremist activities and terrorist activities. Our fear is that they will return home to Australia as hardened, homegrown terrorists and seek to continue their work here in Australia.
And it's not a concern just of this country. As I mentioned earlier, at the East Asia summit, a number of countries raised this issue of foreign fighters leaving countries going to fight in these conflicts and coming home with a set of skills and experience as terrorists that truly poses one of the most significant threats that we've seen in a very long time.
Our discussion today focused on what we can do to counter this risk. Australia, as the Australian media would be well aware, has announced a series of legislative reforms that deal with matters including the burden of proof for people's presence in proscribed areas, like Mosul (off mic) Australian citizens would be defying the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advice to not go to Mosul (off mic). We are looking at issues involving passports and the cancellation -- the ability to suspend passports so that we can investigate the activities of people within Australia and deal with them on their return.
We know that one of the Australian citizens involved in these activities in the Middle East in Iraq had, in fact, been convicted of terrorist activities in Australia, had served time, and then left Australia under false identity. We also know that in coming weeks and months, a significant number of those convicted of terrorist activities in Indonesia will be released.
Now, the question is, have they been de-radicalized in their time in prison? Clearly in the case of the Australian citizens, not. And we have similar fears for those inmates leaving Indonesian jails.
So the whole question of what we can do when these people are detained and what we can do if they're prosecuted and found guilty and spend time in jail (off mic) matters that we have to look at, the whole question of reaching out to the communities in Australia and getting communities to assist us in fighting this extremist threat is important.
So as we were discussing these issues, Secretary Kerry said this is something we've got to bring to the attention of the international community. It's a shared issue across Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Europe, in Pakistan, in Great Britain, Canada. There are a number of countries across the globe reporting instances of citizens becoming extremist fighters in the Middle East.
And so this idea of having a (off mic) discussion at UNGA leaders week is something that I believe will be well supported, because so many countries are facing this threat, and if we can exchange ideas and practices and suggestions is how we can deal with it, then I think we will have made a great step forward. And so we certainly will support the United States and work very hard to ensure that we collectively deal with this growing threat to the security of our nation.
SEC. KERRY: Can I add one thing to that? And I apologize, but I just want to underscore -- this image (off mic) iconic photograph that Julie has just referred to is really one of the most disturbing, stomach-turning, grotesque photographs ever displayed, of a 7-year-old child holding a severed head up with pride and with this -- with the support and encouragement of the parent, with brothers there. That child should be school. That child should be out learning about a future. That child should be playing with other kids, not holding a severed head and out in the field of combat.
This is utterly disgraceful. And it underscores the degree to which ISIL is, you know, so far beyond the pale with respect to any standard by which we judge even terrorist groups that Al Qaida shunted them aside. And that's why they represent the threat that they represent. And it's no accident that every country in the region is opposed to ISIL.
So this threat is so real. An African -- the North African president of a country recently told me that 1,800 identified citizens of that country had gone to Syria to fight (off mic) around 1,100 of them they knew had already been killed because their bodies had been returned or they were tallied as killed, but (off mic) 700 or 800 still out there that they fear are going to return to that country knowing how to fix an IED, knowing how to arm weapons, knowing how to explode a bomb, knowing how to build a suicide vest, or something like that.
And this ideology is without one redeeming quality of offering people a job or health care or an education or anything other than saying, "Don't live any other way but the way we tell you." So this is serious business. And we understand that. And I think the world is beginning to come to grips with the fact the degree to which this is unacceptable.
And we have a responsibility to take this to the United Nations and to the world so that all countries involved take measures ahead of time to prevent the return of these fighters and the chaos and havoc that could come with that. And I just wanted to underscore that with Minister Bishop, because we're all joined together in this effort, and that's why we're going to take it to the United Nations in the fall and try to get best practices put together by which all countries can begin to act together in unison in order to react to it.
Q: Yeah (off mic) from Reuters. Please excuse if I don't stand up I’ve got too much equipment going here. Turning back to Iraq, you said that the U.S. was prepared to consider security -- you know, political and economic options as Iraq forms this new government. Can you get into more specifics about that? We've heard some vague statements on how you (off mic) support. Does this include full airstrikes, you know, to push back ISIS? You know, once the government comes in, how do you secure that stability?
And then, number two, on Ukraine, NATO Secretary General Rasmussen said today there's a high probability of a Russian intervention in Ukraine. What specific steps, again, are you taking through diplomatic channels to address this? You talked about your hopes in the next days and weeks if you could find a way for President Poroshenko and Ukraine to be able to work with the Russians. Are you talking about a new diplomatic effort here? And what are you talking about? Thanks.
SEC. KERRY: Well, let me make it clear. With respect to Ukraine, diplomatic efforts have never ceased. It's not a question of a new one. It's a question of ongoing diplomatic efforts. We have never stopped. The president has not stopped. The vice president, myself have all been in touch with the top leadership of Ukraine, leadership of Russia, and others. The president of the United States talked to President Putin a few days ago. I talked to Foreign Minister Lavrov just a couple days ago. I talked to President Poroshenko a few days ago. There are a lot of conversations taking place.
And even now as we stand here, there are efforts being made with our friends, with Germany, with the Ukrainians, with Russia, with others to try to see if there's a way to work out a way forward on the humanitarian delivery, with direct contact with the ICRC. There is direct contact with the Germans and others in this effort.
And the hope is that through the meetings that will take place this week there is a way to find a means that is acceptable to deliver humanitarian assistance without the guise of a military delivery in an effort to do so against the (off mic) and wishes of the country where it is being delivered and against the norms of the ICRC, the International Red Cross, and how it would react to that.
So that's the effort that's underway now. It's been a consistent, continued diplomatic effort to try to find a way forward. But obviously, the humanitarian assistance needs to get there, and there are a clearer set of meetings scheduled, so there's a timeframe within which we think we're operating, which is why I mentioned that.
With respect to Iraq and -- and the stability, I want -- I think Chuck Hagel should speak specifically to any of the security components of that, but I'd just say, on the economic and political front, the best thing for stability in Iraq is for an inclusive government to bring the disaffected parties to the table and work with them in order to make sure there is the kind of sharing of power and decision-making that people feel confident the government represents all of their interests.
And if that begins to happen, then there is a way for both investment, trade, economic, other realities to help sustain and build that kind of stability. But if you don't have the prerequisite, which President Obama identified at the outset, of an inclusive, working government, there's no chance for any of that. That's why we think the steps taken, the selection of the speaker, the selection of a president, and now a prime minister-designate who has an opportunity to be able to form a government are just essential prerequisites to this process of providing stability.
Do you want to talk to the security?
SEC. HAGEL: I'll just mention a couple of things. One, as you know, it was the Iraqi government that requested the U.S. government's assistance with humanitarian delivery on Mount Sinjar. And we complied with that request, agreed with that request, are carrying out those missions.
It was also the Iraqi government's request of the United States government to assist them in transferring, transporting military equipment to Erbil to help the Peshmerga. As Secretary Kerry noted, and as President Obama has said, as a new government begins to take shape, we would consider further requests from that new government.
But I would just also re-emphasize what Secretary Kerry has already noted and President Obama has made this very clear. The future of Iraq will be determined by the people of Iraq. It will not be determined by a military solution. It will require a political solution. And I think Secretary Kerry's comments about an inclusive, participatory, functioning government is critically important to the future of Iraq.
So we would -- we would wait and see what future requests that this new government would ask of us, and we would consider those based on those requests.
MIN. BISHOP: Just on Ukraine, Australia welcomes the efforts of the United States to assist in preventative diplomacy between Ukraine and Russia, as I made I hope very clear to Vice Minister Morgulov in Naypyidaw over the weekend, yes, there is a humanitarian situation in Ukraine that is serious and it's likely to worsen, but if Russia were concerned about the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, the first step is to stop the flow of fighters and weapons into eastern Ukraine. And the so-called separatists are very professional, very well-armed, with the most sophisticated of weaponry and equipment, so to cease that flow of personnel and weapons would be a start.
I also hope I made very clear that any intervention by Russia into Ukraine under the guise of an humanitarian crisis would be seen as the transparent artifice that it is, and Australia would condemn in the strongest possible terms any effort by Russia to enter Ukraine under the guise of carrying out some sort of humanitarian mission. Clearly, that kind of support must come from donor countries, from the U.N., from the International Red Cross, and that is our expectation.
I think that's it, Brendan.