Australian Defense Minister to visit France, Germany and Britain to strengthen relations

Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles speaks to the media during the 19th Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore June 12, 2022. REUTERS/Caroline Chia

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SYDNEY, Aug 28 (Reuters) – Australia’s defense minister said on Sunday he intended to deepen defense ties with France, Germany and Britain during visits to European partners this week, saying the war in Ukraine has increased the importance of cooperation with like-minded countries.

The trip, from August 29 to September 1, will be Richard Marles’ first since the centre-left Labor party won the general election in May.

The government said France’s shutdown would help ‘restore and renew’ their bilateral relationship, calling France Australia’s ‘oldest and most capable partner’.

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In June, Australia reached a 555 million euro ($553 million) deal with French military shipyard Naval Group to scrap a multibillion-dollar submarine contract the last year.

Canberra hoped the settlement would help mend a rift after the previous government scrapped a deal to build nuclear-powered submarines with the US and Britain under a new alliance baptized AUKUS.

This week’s trip will also see Marles participate in a roundtable with representatives of the German defense industry, while in Britain he will visit shipyards, the government said.

“Our relationship with the UK is both historic and mutually beneficial, and is reflected in our continued commitment to AUKUS,” Marles said.

“My visit to Europe comes at a time when the war in Ukraine has shown the importance of increasing cooperation with like-minded partners, both in Europe and in the Indo-Pacific.”

In June, Marles visited Japan to promote defense cooperation to counteract China’s growing military influence in Asia.

Also on Sunday, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said she would visit Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Timor-Leste this week.

Australia has taken steps to strengthen relations in the Pacific amid growing Chinese influence, including a China-Solomon Islands security pact in April.

Wong said she would meet her PNG counterpart Justin Tkatchenko, recently re-elected prime minister James Marape and members of PNG’s new cabinet.

From PNG, Wong will travel to Timor-Leste on Wednesday and meet with officials including President Jose Ramos-Horta, Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak and Foreign Minister Adaljiza Magno.

She said she planned to discuss issues such as Australia’s support for Timor-Leste’s economic development and its offers to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the World Trade Organization. trade.

“Australia is committed to working with Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste in the interests of a stable, resilient and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” Wong said.

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Reporting by Sam McKeith; Editing by Christopher Cushing

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