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Australia to send humanitarian aid to Georgia -

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Australia to send humanitarian aid to Georgia

The World Today - Wednesday, 13 August , 2008 12:40:00

Reporter: Samantha Hawley

ELEANOR HALL: Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister, Stephen Smith the Federal Government is
preparing to announce a package of humanitarian assistance for those who've been displaced by the
fighting in South Ossetia in Georgia.

Mr Smith revealed that Georgia had asked Australia for military assistance during the fighting but
that the Government refused that request.

Mr Smith is visiting Indonesia and spoke from there to reporter, Samantha Hawley.

STEPHEN SMITH: We welcome the fact that Russian President Medvedev has indicated that he is
prepared to stop hostilities. That sets the scene for an effective ceasefire.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Well, there is just news to hand now that Georgia has agreed to the terms of the
ceasefire. That has got to be a positive step.

STEPHEN SMITH: Absolutely, but in the end what we now need is to try and find a long-term solution
to this. Yes, we have seen very regrettable violence and force of arms, use of the force of arms in
the last few days but this problem has been going on for some time. We now do need to work through
by dialogue, a solution to this problem.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: I understand that Georgia had actually asked Australia for military assistance. Is
that right?

STEPHEN SMITH: At officer level in New York through the UN, Georgia approached officer level, a
number of countries for military assistance. Our response was of course, the obvious which is - we
are not interested in a military solution here, we're interested in ceasefire and a dialogue. So
that was made very clear.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: OK so absolutely no consideration by Australia to that request?

STEPHEN SMITH: Absolutely not. We are not interested in a military solution here. We are interested
in a dialogue. I have made it clear and I again make it clear, Australia of course, stands ready to
contemplate humanitarian assistance. There have been a large number of civilians who have been
killed or injured or displaced.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Do we know how many?

STEPHEN SMITH: I am not aware of the precise numbers, possibly 100,000 of displaced people in South
Ossetia and Georgia.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Could we provide refuge for some of these people?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well I think it is too early to contemplate that. What we want in the first instance
is a cessation of violence, restoration of peace and stability and then talks which we hope can
bring about a long-term solution to this.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: And you will be providing some form of humanitarian aid, money I expect, when will
you make an announcement about that?

STEPHEN SMITH: I hope to be in a position to announce what we are doing in the first instance in
the next 24 hours.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: You mentioned the number of civilian casualties is very high. Should Russia or
Georgia for that matter, face war crimes investigations?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well again, I think it is very early to contemplate things of that nature.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: There are still reports of sporadic fighting. Should the Australians who remain in
Georgia still proceed with plans to leave or given now that Georgia seems to have agreed to the
ceasefire, can they safely remain in the country?

STEPHEN SMITH: We, yesterday, increased our travel advice to not to travel to Georgia. There are a
small number of Australians who are in Georgia and our advice to them has been that if they are
able to leave safely, they should leave and for a number of Australians, we have been able to
facilitate their leaving Georgia.

For those who want to remain we have been indicating to them that they should effectively keep
their heads down. They should stay indoors and keep their heads down.

ELEANOR HALL: The Foreign Affairs Minister, Stephen Smith speaking to Samantha Hawley.