18th May 2016

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26th October 2015
ECAJ President Robert Goot, and Executive Director, Peter Wertheim, met for almost an hour on Wednesday, October 21, with Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop. The meeting was sought by the ECAJ following media reports of a shift in Australia’s foreign policy towards Iran and the Assad regime in Syria.
The Foreign Minister stated in the clearest possible terms that there has been no shift in policy.
“We continue to have discussions with Iran about the repatriation of 8,000 of their nationals who came to Australia by boat,” Ms Bishop said.
“This includes how best the Iranian government can process these matters, however there is no specific plan to establish consulates in Sydney and Melbourne at this time.”
Ms Bishop said, “We have asked the Iranian government to provide us with any information they might have about Australian citizens who have joined Islamic State in Syria or Iraq. We have made this same request of other governments”.
The Foreign Minister confirmed that the Australian government has welcomed the final agreement that was concluded in July between Iran and the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (P5+1) concerning Iran’s nuclear program. However, she emphasised that Australia’s sanctions, including the autonomous sanctions, will remain force until there is verification, and international acceptance, of Iran’s compliance with its obligations under the agreement.
“This government remains resolutely committed to Israel’s right to live in peace and to defend itself,” Ms Bishop said. “I have raised concerns with the Iranian foreign minister about negative statements towards Israel.”
More generally, Ms Bishop said that the government was very proud of its solid record of support for Israel, especially at the UN. She said that at the end of December 2014, just before Australia’s two year term on the UN Security Council came to an end, Australia voted against a Palestinian-drafted motion calling for an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines and the establishment of a Palestinian state by the end of 2017. The motion was defeated without the need for the US to exercise its veto. Australia’s official Explanation of Vote criticised the motion stating:

“It lacks balance and seeks to impose a solution put forward by one party alone. Final status issues can only be resolved between the two sides. A process agreed by both sides is the only way forward to reach an enduring agreement.”

Recalling the incident, Ms Bishop noted the sharp contrast between the present government’s depth of commitment to Israel and the harsh and unfairly critical attitude adopted by the previous government under former Foreign Minister Bob Carr.
On the question of Syria, Ms Bishop expressed the view that the Assad regime had long ago lost its legitimacy, saying: “Any government that militarily attacks its own citizens with chemical weapons and barrel bombs has forfeited its right to govern.” She noted that the difficulty right now is that there is no way to remove Assad. “He has the support of only a small percentage of the Syrian people but is being maintained in power by Iran and by Russia. In the absence of a viable option to remove Assad from power, there is no alternative but to accept that his departure is not necessarily a precondition for achieving a political settlement of the conflict in Syria. All options have to be left open.”
The Foreign Minister concluded by saying that she was happy for the ECAJ to communicate to the wider community the views she had expressed at the meeting.

Robert Goot AM SC,
President,
Executive Council
of Australian Jewry
Peter Wertheim AM,
Executive Director,
Executive Council
of Australian Jewry

Contact:
Peter Wertheim AM Executive Director
ph: 02 8353 8500 | m: 0408 160 904
e: pwertheim@ecaj.org.au | www.ecaj.org.au