Bishop 'horrified' by nerve-agent attack

March 13, 2018

Julie Bishop says Australia may back sanctions against Russia over a nerve agent attack in the UK.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is not ruling out supporting economic sanctions against Russia over a "horrifying" nerve agent attack carried out on Britain soil.

Australia is backing British calls for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council after the attempted assassination of Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury earlier this month.

"We'll obviously consider appropriate responses as the facts come to light, in very close co-ordination with the United Kingdom and other partners," Ms Bishop told ABC radio on Tuesday.

The federal government will also express its condemnation at a meeting of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) at The Hague this week.

The foreign minister has been receiving security and intelligence briefings since UK prime minister Theresa May confirmed a military-grade nerve agent developed by Russia was used in the attack.

"It raises the obvious question ... who had access to such a nerve agent?" Ms Bishop said.

"The action is horrifying. It shows a callous disregard, not only for the absolute international prohibition on the use of chemical weapons, but also for the possible lethal effects on others in the locality of its use."

Australia supported "in the strongest possible terms" efforts to bring those responsible to justice.

"Australia condemns the use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances," Ms Bishop said.

"I believe the international community must demonstrate zero tolerance for, and a firm commitment to deter, any future acts of this nature."

Skripal and his daughter Yulia have been in hospital in a critical condition since they were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury on March 4.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said it is "highly likely" Russia was responsible for the attack and it has until Wednesday morning to provide a credible response or face retaliatory measures.

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