Australia declares its support for ‘proportionate’ air strikes
AUSTRALIA “fully supports” air strikes on chemical weapons targets in Syria by US, British and French forces, the Turnbull Government has said.
In a statement, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defence Minister Marise Payne said it was a “proportionate and targeted response”.
“They send an unequivocal message to the Assad regime and its backers, Russia and Iran, that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated,” the statement said. “The use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances is illegal and utterly reprehensible. The Assad regime must not be allowed to commit such crimes with impunity.”
Senator Payne (pictured) was briefed by US Secretary of Defence James Mattis before the strikes. She said there had been “no Australian involve- ment”, nor had there been any request to join the strikes.
Australia’s former ambassador to Syria, Bob Bowker, said the West could not ignore the use of chemical weapons.
“This action by Washington has probably made it more difficult for Syria to act unilaterally, and the likelihood is the Russians will advise them firmly against challenging the Americans,” he said. “The Russians will be aware that if those strikes were repeated and repeated again, Russian assets might be hit … which would require a Russian response. It sends a strong signal to the Russians to avoid escalation”.
Ms Bishop said she did not believe the strikes increased the risk of a US-Russia conflict.
“We do not envisage this will spiral into a broader conflict between the United States s and Russia,” she said. ANNIKA SMETHURST