Sunday, February 19, 2017

Australia may consider working with Russia to fight ISIS: defense minister

The Australian government has not ruled out working with Russia in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group in the Middle East, the nation's defense minister said Sunday.

Following high-level international defense talks in Brussels last week, at which Australia's Defense Minister Marise Payne met with counterparts including US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, the Australian government has said it would consider working with Russia to get a desirable outcome in war-torn Syria.

"Australia is willing to work with any nation that is willing to make a constructive contribution to the fight against (Islamic State)," Payne told Fairfax Media on Sunday.

"As matters advance in Syria, these are matters the government will consider but I'm not going to make any further comment on that at the moment."

Australia has previously been hesitant to throw its support behind Russia's foray into the Middle East, but following the election of Donald Trump, the United States, Australia's closest ally, has indicated it was open to forming closer ties with the Kremlin to defeat IS.

Payne's comments came after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he was also open to the idea of increasing Australia's presence in the region, if requested by Australia's military allies.

"(But) I should say that Australia already has one of the largest, if not the largest presence in the alliance against IS, other than the United States in foreign contributions," Turnbull said Friday from New Zealand, where he met with counterpart Bill English.

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