CURTIN MHR Julie Bishop wants a lasting settlement to the horrors of the Syria civil war in 2017, after the challenges of 2016.
The Foreign Minister told the Western Suburbs Weekly last night that the Syrian conflict was a humanitarian crisis “the likes of which we have not seen in decades”.
“That would be my hope, my wish, that we can find a political solution so the people of Syria can live in some kinds of security and stability,” she said.
Today, another ceasefire in the devastated Syrian city of Aleppo collapsed, with reports citing rebel-backer Iran’s desire to secure two villages before the Syrian army – backed by Russian aircraft – takes over the city after 11 years of war estimated to have killed up to 500,000.
Ms Bishop said a lasting solution could be created by the International Syria Support Group, of which Australia is a member, when it meets earlier in the new year.
“The US and Russia, as the two major powers supporting opposite sides, need to broker a ceasefire and a political solution,” she said.
Some of those trapped in Aleppo were meant to be taken by bus to safe havens and refugee camps, but the restarting of fighting cut off their escapes.
Some Syrian refugees have been settled in Australia, including some at Andrew’s Forrest’s Cottesloe Tukurua mansion, among about 9000 already processed in a 12,000 intake announced by Canberra earlier this year.
Asked if the intake could be increased because of Aleppo’s collapse, Ms Bishop said Syrians could also come through the “regular” humanitarian and refugee visa system, which was increasing by 5000 places to 18,750.
“Plus, we have to fill the 12,000 cohort. We’ll obviously keep this under review,” she said.
The new year will also bring confirmation or rejection by the US Senate of her prospective American counterpart, secretary of state-elect and Exxon-Mobile oilman Rex Tillerson, who is under scrutiny for his close business relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Ms Bishop said other businessmen had made “very good” secretaries of state, such as George Shultz, and Mr Tillerson’s awareness of issues in countries where Exxon-Mobile operated, including Australia and Papua New Guinea, should be an opportunity.
“There have been some secretaries of state who have never been to Australia before they came secretary of state, so in this regard he has an awareness, an understanding of Australia, and we should take advantage of that,” he said.