Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says Libya is a new focus in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group and she is listening out for what’s needed to deal with the threat there.
Ms Bishop was in Rome on Tuesday for a meeting of the Small Group of the Global Coalition to Combat ISIL/Daesh co-chaired by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
The meeting heard that Afghanistan had just joined the global coalition of 66 nations combating IS and that progress had been made in pushing the jihadists back.
“It will be a long and difficult fight but there is considerable optimism about the gains that have been made,” Ms Bishop told reporters on Tuesday.
She said Australia was the second largest contributor of troops in Iraq to help combat IS through training of Iraqi forces and was also conducting air strikes against IS in Iraq and Syria.
She said there was no pressure on Australia to contribute more militarily, particularly when other countries in the region could do more.
“It’s an extremely complex situation in Syria and it’s a difficult situation in Iraq and now we have Libya as part of the focus as well so nobody underestimates the challenges,” Ms Bishop said.
She said she would be listening to discussions about Libya at a special meeting later on Tuesday.
“Clearly there is a message from Secretary Kerry and others that we need to consolidate a government in Libya, a sovereign government that is able to control its borders and protect its people.”
Ms Bishop also said that after the Iraqi military’s recent success in retaking the city of Ramadi from IS it was important for the international community to support the Iraqi government in efforts to provide stability and rebuild retaken cities.
She said IS left explosive devices behind in Ramadi and elsewhere and that involved a complex clean-up operation before residents could return. ”
There is more work to be done and Australia will consider any request made of us in that regard – we do have some expertise,” Ms Bishop added.