‘Al Assad Butchering His People’ — Julia Gillard

  • 16 January 2014

The United Arab Emirates and Australia must work together in confronting regional issues threatening international security and stability, Australia’s former prime minister Julia Gillard said on Tuesday. In a lecture at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies (ECSSR) in Abu Dhabi, Gillard said Australia and the UAE shared a common goal to resolve regional conflict and instability.

Civil war in Syria is “breaking the hopes of everyone in the region. A tyrant is butchering his people. He has had no compunction about using weapons of mass destruction to do it. The opposition is atomised, and to a larger extent it is becoming radicalised,” she said. War between the Assad regime, opposition forces and Al Qaida groups has been waging in Syria for almost three years. With millions displaced and more than 100,000 killed in the fighting, Gillard said Australia and the UAE must continue to work together to help restore peace in Syria.

“We must remain open and vigilant to opportunities and strategies that will end the suffering, end the Assad regime, and provide the path to a new Syria that can focus on rebuilding and not on threatening its neighbours,” she said. On Iran, Gillard reinforced rhetoric of many of her foreign counterparts — the world cannot accept an Iran with nuclear weapons. She hailed the UAE’s support in the sanctions the have led to the P5+1 diplomacy talks.

“With sanctions in effect, commerce between the UAE and Iran has plunged 83 per cent from $23 billion (Dh84.48 billion) to just over $4 billion,” she said. Negotiations progressed this past week with Iran agreeing to the terms laid out in November’s historic interim deal. But Gillard said Iran cannot be trusted. “Compliance with the interim agreement and all the enforcement provision will test whether there can be trust,” she said.

Whilst Gillard said people should look beyond the headlines and the public expression of irritation between Saudi Arabia and the United States, she said that the two countries need to work in greater concord for the benefit of the region. She said Australia and the UAE, as allies of the two countries, should help Saudi Arabia and the United States “advance their friendship and their alliance."

Repeating a speech from last November in Australia, Gillard voiced her support for a Palestinian State but raised concerns of regional rhetoric opposing a Jewish-Israeli State. “Everyone understands a State for Palestine. But not everyone says there should be a State of Israel,” she said.