Australia won’t be the only country stepping up its efforts against Islamic State, Prime Minister Tony Abbott says.
Federal cabinet has yet to have a detailed briefing on a US request for Australian bombers and other aircraft to cross the border from Iraq into Syria to destroy IS targets.
Defence Minister Kevin Andrews is in India discussing defence cooperation and is due to return later this week, delaying cabinet talks on the issue until next week.
“I don’t want this decision to be made in the absence of a full briefing from the defence minister,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.
But the prime minister said Australia would not be acting alone if it did expand operations.
“I’m pleased that the US is continuing discussions with a number of countries, including Australia, about what more we can do to tackle the death cult,” he said.
“As far as I’m aware, European countries such as the United Kingdom, such as the Danes and the Dutch, are looking to further step up their campaign.”
Mr Abbott said the consolidation of a terrorist state in eastern Syria and northern Iraq would be a catastrophe for the world.
Australia has 400 personnel involved in the air task group in Iraq and 300 assigned to Taji where Iraqi forces are being trained.
The UN Security Council has urged a greater diplomatic effort to end the carnage in Syria.
The UK’s UNSC representative Matthew Rycroft said: “Let us seize the momentum and unity of this month to draw to a close over four years of fighting.”
Meanwhile, IS militants have destroyed two of the most important temples in the UNESCO-listed Syrian city of Palmyra, as they carry out their campaign to wipe out some of the Middle East’s most important heritage sites.
The UN has released satellite images confirming the ancient city’s most famed shrine, the 2000-year-old Temple of Bel, had been blown up a week after the destruction of the temple of Baal Shamin.