Prime Minister Tony Abbott has warned of risks involved in Iraq missions as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon endorsed Australia’s role
Australia’s latest role in Iraq has received the backing of UN chief Ban Ki-moon, as the prime minister warns the ongoing mission carries risks.
Within days RAAF aircraft will fly to the Kurdish capital Erbil to provide small arms, ammunition and aid as part of a US-led effort to fend off Islamic State militants.
The UN Secretary-General says it’s important nations such as Australia help address the situation in Iraq.
“Without addressing this issue through certain means, including some military and counter-terrorist actions, we will just end up allowing these terrorist activities to continue,” he told reporters in Auckland on Tuesday.
Australia’s international standing will go up a notch when Foreign Minister Julie Bishop accepts this week a formal invitation for the nation to become an “enhanced partner” of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
Although not a member, Australia’s engagement with NATO has grown steadily in recent years especially through the mission in Afghanistan.
Ms Bishop is heading to the NATO summit in Wales as Prime Minister Tony Abbott warns of further risks involved in the Iraq mission.
However he talked down reports a C-130 Hercules aircraft undertaking Australia’s second humanitarian airdrop to the town of Amerli had come under fire from extremists.
“I’m not advised that they came under direct fire themselves,” he said.
Defence chief Mark Binskin tweeted there were no reports the transport came under fire, but ground fire was “not unusual in a war zone”.
Mr Abbott said risks should be expected.
“Obviously, flying humanitarian air drops into combat zones are full of risk. But the risks are reasonable given the importance of the missions they’re flying.”
The US Defence Department said in a statement US aircraft had conducted three air strikes against nearby Islamic State terrorists in support of the Amerli airdrop, but all aircraft safely exited the area.
Labor leader Bill Shorten restated his support for the airdrops and weapons airlift but acknowledged there were easy options there.
“Providing the Kurds with light weapons, the opportunity to defend themselves against people who would kill their families, to me is the only logical choice here,” Mr Shorten said.
He later told Labor caucus the party would not support putting Australian troops on the ground in Iraq.
Mr Abbott told a coalition joint party room meeting there had been no requests for combat troops and there was a “world of difference” between the war in 2003 and today.
“What we do will be done with appropriate due process,” he said.