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Transcript of interview with Marius Benson: ABC Newsradio: 2 Februrary 2011: unrest in Egypt

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Minister’s Office: 02 6277 7500 or 0434 664 589 Department: 02 6261 1555


The Hon. Kevin Rudd MP




Subjects: Unrest in Egypt


HOST: Meanwhile, as the world watches the mass demonstrations in Egypt, Australia's Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, has been travelling in Turkey holding talks with Turkey's Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and President Abdullah Gul, on the growing calls for President Mubarak to go.

At the same time rescue flights are being sent in to Cairo to take out Australians caught up in the turmoil. NewsRadio's Marius Benson has just spoken with the Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, who's in Istanbul.

REPORTER: Kevin Rudd, you're now speaking from Istanbul. You've been having talks today in Turkey with the President, the Prime Minister of Turkey. Obviously Egypt is on everyone's mind. What's the nature of those discussions?

KEVIN RUDD: Well, this is the central preoccupation right across the wider Middle East. What was significant today is that the Turkish Prime Minister addressed the Turkish Parliament and made some direct statements about the situation on the ground in Egypt and indicated clearly that, his view that President Mubarak would need to respond to the conditions being put by the people of Egypt.

Minister’s Office: 02 6277 7500 or 0434 664 589 Department: 02 6261 1555


REPORTER: When the Turkish Prime Minister says President Mubarak must respond to the people - that means President Mubarak must go.

KEVIN RUDD: The Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan did not state that explicitly but nonetheless the statements have been made. The Foreign Minister briefed me on the content of it, prior to the Prime Minister making it in the Turkish Parliament in Ankara today, and then I subsequently discussed the content of the statement also with the Turkish President.

Therefore, all governments in the region are following developments closely including the decision by the Jordanian government in the last 24 hours, the Jordanian King, I should say, in the last 24 hours, to remove his cabinet. This is a very volatile period for the entire region, not just Egypt.

REPORTER: But it's obviously not just being followed in the region. In Washington there's been a lot of activity. President Obama has held a national security meeting and Senator John Kerry has said that he believes there must be democratic elections and that President Mubarak and his son must not be candidates. Do you agree?

KEVIN RUDD: As I've said to you a number of times already on this matter, our position as a government is that fundamental political reform must occur and that is clearly the aspiration of the Egyptian people. Our responsibility, and I believe it is an important responsibility of the international community, is to apply maximum pressure to the Egyptian government in responding to the protesters not to resort to violence and to allow peaceful protest to proceed.

REPORTER: Can I ask you about the Australians in Egypt, hundreds of Australians are trying to get out, what's the latest information you have there?

KEVIN RUDD: Firstly, more than 600 Australians have registered their interest in evacuating - in evacuation assistance - and we're working to confirm passenger lists for the first flight on Wednesday. Furthermore I can confirm to you that the government has arranged a further evacuation flight for the following day and we are seeking to contact, still, all those in Egypt who have expressed in interest in going, to make sure that they are confirmed on a flight to go.

REPORTER: There have been some pretty unhappy Australians at Cairo Airport appearing on the media here, saying they're not pleased with the assistance they're getting from Australia. They say other nationals are getting more help. Are you satisfied that everything that can be done is being done by the Australian officials?

KEVIN RUDD: People who are caught up in the midst of such uncertainty, of a political crisis abroad, when they have gone abroad to enjoy a holiday, are understandably anxious, they're understandably afraid, and they're understandably frustrated in terms of trying to get out of the country. This is normal, it's understandable, but I can say to families who are anxious about their loved

Minister’s Office: 02 6277 7500 or 0434 664 589 Department: 02 6261 1555


ones that the full resources of the Australian government have been deployed towards this evacuation exercise.

Furthermore, if I could simply say what I see unfolding at present, is indications out of Cairo, reported on Al Arabiya, that President Mubarak won't run for a further term in office. We have yet to confirm the accuracy of that but it's worthwhile noting that that report is also coming through.

REPORTER: Would you welcome that if that's confirmed?

KEVIN RUDD: As I said, this is a matter for the Egyptian people. We've said it all along. We believe that there must be fundamental political reform in the country and we've said all along that we, and the rest of the international community, expect the Egyptian authorities not to use any form of violence against

peaceful protesters. It's still a fluid situation, it's a difficult situation, it's a dangerous situation and it's also a situation which is full of disinformation.

REPORTER: Mr Rudd, thank you very much.

KEVIN RUDD: It's a pleasure.

HOST: The Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, speaking from Istanbul with Marius Benson this morning.