Australia’s FM Julie Bishop discuses ISIS, asylum seekers with Iranian FM

Foreign minister Julie Bishop meets President Hassan Rouhani for first high level talks between Australia and Iran in 12 years

TEHRAN (Iran) — Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has met with Iran’s foreign minister for the first high-level talks between Australia and Tehran in more than a decade. Ms. Bishop hailed Iran’s efforts to crush the militant ISIS group in Iraq, saying on a rare trip to Tehran that the militants can be defeated.

The two discussed the threat of Islamic State militants who control large territories in Iraq and Syria.

“We had a detailed discussion about our respective roles in Iraq. And the support that we are providing to the Abadi government to build capacity within the Iraqi security forces,” Bishop told a joint news conference with Zarif.

“I detailed Australia’s involvement. It is proportionate, it is limited, by time and most certainly limited to military training and participation in coalition air strikes. We had very useful discussion about how we believe both our countries can contribute to the defeat of this terrorist organization.”

Bishop outlined Australia’s concerns about its citizens leaving to join the militants.

“There are Australian citizens. Indeed there are citizens from about 80 or 90 countries around the world who are being drawn to this conflict. And it is in our national security interest to prevent Australian citizens from leaving, to prevent Australian citizens from taking part in this conflict and to defeat Daesh and we will do that through our support for the Iraqi government,” she said, referring to Islamic State by an Arabic acronym.
Mr Zarif welcomed Australia’s commitment to train troops and bomb IS, but said air strikes would not be enough.

He also acknowledged concerns that Iranian-supported Shiite militias were guilty of human rights abuses, and said Iran has warned against attacks on civilians.

After praising progress on the nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 (Britain, China, France, Russia, US and Germany) Ms Bishop said if a mutually beneficial agreement were reached, the issue of sanctions would follow.

Mr Zarif played down talk from the US that the military option against Iran was still on the table.

Ms Bishop said Australia and Iran were both members of the Bali process aimed at dismantling the people smuggling trade.

She said she hoped to make some progress in discussions about the hundreds of Iranian asylum seekers whose applications for refugee status have been rejected by Australia.

Iran refuses to take back the asylum seekers unless they return voluntarily.

“It’s obviously a matter of concern for both countries and I hope we can find some progress.”

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