Visit to Australia/bilateral relations
Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd today welcomed France’s Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Alain Juppé, to Australia for the first time. Acknowledging the historic ties which underpin the contemporary bilateral relationship, this morning both ministers laid wreaths at the Australian War Memorial to honour the memory of Australian and French soldiers who have served together in conflicts spanning almost 100 years. Pledging both countries’ commitment to commemorate the approaching centenary of the Great War, they together expressed their deep sympathy for the families of coalition soldiers and members of the Afghan security forces killed on duty, and for families of civilians killed as a result of the conflict in Afghanistan.
Australia and France share key objectives in Afghanistan – to ensure the country never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorism, and to help build the capacity of Afghan authorities to deliver governance, basic services and economic opportunities for the Afghan people. Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to a sustainable and irreversible transition to Afghan authorities, of responsibility for security, by the end of 2014.
Ministers recognized the importance of Pakistan’s involvement in efforts to bring about a durable political settlement in Afghanistan, for both its own stability and that of the region. Ministers confirmed France and Australia’s commitment to supporting Pakistan address its difficult security, economic and social development challenges, particularly taking urgent action on economic reforms.
Mindful that this weekend marks the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 11 September, Mr Rudd and Mr Juppé reaffirmed their support for the victims of those abhorrent acts as well as the victims of terrorism throughout the world. While there have been some notable successes in combating terrorism, they agreed that the persistent terrorist threat reminds us of the importance of bilateral and multilateral cooperation in tackling international terrorist networks.
Australia and France, together with other partners, will continue to respond decisively and swiftly to counter the threat of terrorism, at home and abroad.
In wide-ranging discussions, reflecting the ambitious and enlarged partnership that Australia and France now share, the ministers exchanged views on the democratic aspirations of countries in the Middle East and North Africa. They pledged their support for international efforts to meet Libya’s urgent humanitarian needs and for reconstruction and the transition to democracy. Mr Rudd commended the leadership of France for hosting the timely Conference in Support of the New Libya on 1 September. Reiterating the urgent need to reach a fair and lasting peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians, they called on the parties to resume a credible political process.
Australia and France responded quickly to the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa, providing significant resources. The ministers praised the coordinated efforts by the international community spearheaded by UN agencies as well as the non-government organizations including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). They called on the international community to step up its response, including continued humanitarian as well as medium- to longer-term early recovery support to build agricultural livelihoods.
The current famine in the Horn of Africa underlines the urgent need for action on food security. Australia and France will jointly host a seminar on 13 October aimed at highlighting the important contribution of increased agricultural productivity in improving global food security. Food security will be a key issue of discussion at the first ever G20 development ministers’ meeting on 12 September in Washington.
Beyond the emergency response, the ministers agreed that only a comprehensive approach (political, security and development) would enable the region, particularly Somalia, to overcome a situation of chronic crisis. In this respect, they reiterated Australia and France’s serious concerns about the increase in maritime piracy off the coast of Somalia. Both countries emphasized the urgency of enhancing ongoing work to strengthen the capacity of the judicial systems of Somalia and other states in the region to effectively prosecute suspected pirates. Australia and France recognize the increasing importance of the Indian Ocean for international trade and security.
Australia as incoming Vice-Chair and France as a dialogue partner of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) will look for opportunities to reinvigorate this organization.
Ministers welcomed the signing in July 2011 of the partnership agreement between AusAID and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD). This agreement will enable greater collaboration between Australia’s CSIRO and France’s CIRAD on agricultural research in West Africa, with a specific focus on food security and climate change. Ministers noted French and Australian expertise in the areas of dry-land farming systems and climate risk management in regions prone to drought. They also welcomed endeavours to identify separate opportunities for cooperation between Australia and France, including potential collaboration between AusAID and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) on electoral assistance in French speaking countries in Africa.
Ministers highlighted Australia’s and France’s strong cooperation in the Pacific region on key issues, including defence, fisheries surveillance, coral reef protection, tsunami warning, disaster response and joint participation in key regional institutions. Expressing their satisfaction with outcomes from the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) – which celebrated its 40th anniversary this week – the ministers reaffirmed their commitment to cooperating with PIF member countries, in the spirit of the Cairns Compact, to assist the Small Island Developing States in the region achieve sustainable development. Ministers also agreed to consider opportunities for cooperation between AusAID and the AFD in the South Pacific, potentially on climate change.
Mr Juppé said his participation in the Post-Forum Dialogue on 9 September underlined the ongoing importance of the region in French foreign policy. France strongly encouraged its overseas territories to strengthen their ties with their immediate environment and enhance their regional integration. The ministers noted that both countries supported New Caledonia’s application to become a full member of the Pacific Islands Forum.
Ministers welcomed ongoing cooperation through the FRANZ Agreement on regional disaster response cooperation, noting that Australia would assume the role of Chair from France in November.
Further to the bilateral Defence Agreement which entered into force in 2009 both countries look forward to finalizing a Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement which will support our interoperability for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in the Pacific.
The Ministers, noting that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the entry into force of the Antarctic Treaty, reaffirmed their clear, strong commitment to the Treaty and the importance they attached to continuing close collaboration within the Antarctic Treaty system. This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Territory (Madrid Protocol), which Australia and France were instrumental in developing. The ministers reaffirmed their support for the comprehensive environmental regime enshrined in the Protocol, which represented a landmark evolution of the Antarctic Treaty system. The ministers encouraged Antarctic Treaty Partners, not yet party to the Protocol, to become party to it, to strengthen environmental protection in this unique continent and preserve its heritage. They welcomed the symposium in Hobart on 4 October 2011 which will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Protocol, in which former Prime Ministers Hawke and Rocard would participate.
Ministers were also pleased with the results of bilateral cooperation to deter illegal fishing in the sub-Antarctic, where joint patrols since 2003 have eliminated illegal fishing around Australia’s Heard and McDonald Islands and France’ Kerguelen Islands.
Ministers also noted that Australia and France work in concert in many multilateral bodies to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. They expressed their grave concern about Iran’s nuclear programme, and renewed their appeal to the Iranian authorities to cooperate fully with the IAEA. They stressed their concern about the continuation of North Korea’s nuclear programme and called on North Korea to honour its international obligations and previous commitments to denuclearise. They also discussed the various initiatives underway to ensure even-handed monitoring of the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in May 2010.
Australia and France reaffirmed their strong commitment to a global solution to the challenges caused by climate change. They emphasized the need to make progress at the 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban to further advance the new climate regime, including real mitigation commitments by all major emitters supported by transparency measures, with better access to support for developing countries.
Australia and France reaffirmed their commitment to working together in the G20 to respond to global economic developments. Ministers agreed that now, more than ever, it was important that the G20 focus on how to deliver tangible outcomes to ensure sustainable global economic growth. This would be a key issue for leaders at the G20 Summit in Cannes on 3-4 November.
Global economic developments affect all countries, not just members of the G20. Australia and France share a commitment to awareness-raising and consultation (“outreach”) with non-member countries. G20 outreach was conducted at the recent Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Auckland, which was attended by both Australia and France (as a post-forum dialogue partner). The forthcoming United Nations General Assembly represents future opportunities for outreach activities.
In a joint statement issued today, Mr Rudd and Mr Juppé reflected on the importance both countries place on strengthening nuclear safety infrastructure worldwide. Recognizing the central role of the IAEA, Ministers welcomed the IAEA draft action plan, expressing their commitment to its swift adoption and effective implementation. They looked forward to the convening of the Extraordinary Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Nuclear Safety in August 2012.
Australia and France fought side by side in the Great War, from Gallipoli in 1915 to the battlefields of Flanders in 1918. The sacrifices made are still remembered by both peoples. Ministers acknowledged that during the centenary, both governments will work to create a legacy of knowledge, remembrance and reflection. To facilitate this, they agreed to update the memorandum of understanding on cooperation on shared remembrance of the world conflicts of the 20th century, signed by our two countries in 2003.
Paying tribute to the quality and regularity of exchanges at officials levels, including through political-military and military-military meetings, ministers agreed that further rounds of senior officials’ talks, and dialogue between think tanks, should be convened in 2012. Policy planning staff of our Ministries of Foreign Affairs would participate in regular official dialogues, exchange information on work programmes and issues of mutual interest, and encourage and facilitate cooperation between think tanks and research institutions./.
¹ Source of English text: Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.