Aus­tralia de­clares its sup­port for ‘pro­por­tion­ate’ air strikes

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - NEWS -

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

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