Sydney, Australia, Jan 29 (EFE).- Australia’s defense and foreign ministers will embark on a two-nation European trip beginning Monday to boost ties with the United Kingdom and France.
An official statement said on Sunday that Defense Minister Richard Marles and Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong would attend the second Australia-France Foreign and Defence Ministerial Consultations (2+2) on Jan.30 in Paris.
They will then head to Britain for the Australia-United Kingdom Ministerial Consultations (AUKMIN) from Feb.1 to 2 in London and Portsmouth.
The statement said that the Australian ministers would hold talks with French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna and Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu to “develop and align French and Australian responses to the increasingly challenging strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific and in Europe.”
“(They) will progress work towards a bilateral roadmap to strengthen collaboration across defence and security, resilience and climate action, and education and culture,” said the statement.
In the United Kingdom, the talks with Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace would focus on modernizing the bilateral relationship, elevating cooperation to tackle climate change, building economic resilience, and contributing to global peace and security.
Wong will also meet with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell in Brussels.
“Australia’s partnerships with Europe and the UK work to foster a world that is peaceful, stable and prosperous, and in which sovereignty is respected.”
Australia has increased its security and defense efforts amid fears of China’s growing influence in the strategic Pacific region.
China and the Solomon Islands signed an agreement in April 2022 that opens the door for Chinese security forces at the request of Honiara.
“Deepening practical cooperation with France in the Indo-Pacific, reflecting the priorities of our partners, is critical to our vision of regional stability,” Wong said in the statement.
She said close coordination with the EU was essential due to increasing security challenges in Europe and the Pacific region.
“We are modernising our longstanding relationship with the United Kingdom to face a changing world,” she said.
Minister Marles said the defense partnership with France and the UK was “essential to promoting stability, protecting the rules-based order and avoiding further conflict.”
“I look forward to working with my French and UK counterparts to continue supporting Ukraine and ensure an inclusive, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific.”
He said the visit to Britain provided “an important opportunity to discuss AUKUS” trilateral agreement involving the US, the UK, and Australia.
The three nations announced the defense cooperation pact in 2021 against the backdrop of growing Chinese expansionism in the Indo-Pacific region.
The agreement includes building nuclear submarines for Canberra with American technology and creating defense mechanisms using artificial intelligence and long-distance surveillance.
Following his European tour, the Australian defense minister will travel to the US for talks with his American counterpart, Lloyd J. Austin III. EFE