Joint press conference with Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs

  • Transcript, E&OE

MARISE PAYNE: My very dear friend Jean-Yves, thank you for your extremely warm words, your extremely warm welcome here this evening.

As you have reminded us, we were very fortunate to work closely together as Defence Ministers for France and for Australia, and I really value the opportunity to continue that excellent working relationship now in our roles as Foreign Ministers of France and Australia, and in this, my first visit to France in that capacity, particularly in these fabulous surroundings which are so redolent to the history of your magnificent country.

Today is a very exciting day for both of us. Our finalisation today of the first report to our leaders, to President Macron and to Prime Minister Morrison of the outcomes of our Australia-France initiative, AFiniti, represents the combination of many months of work by our teams, respectively.

AFiniti will see us working together in substantial ways, to respond to, as you have described, a very changed, dynamic strategic environment, respond to shared priorities and challenges, particularly including the Indo-Pacific, where we share the same aims for security and for stability.

AFiniti also has parallels with Australia's recently announced Pacific Step Up, which is a range of activities, focused on securing a stable and prosperous Pacific region.

You have important equities in the Pacific, and we have countries we describe as family in the Pacific. You are an important Pacific nation and have much to share with Australia, and I greatly value the exchanges we've had on this issue today and with others among your ministerial colleagues with whom I've met today on this topic as well.

I think what AFiniti reflects, as Jean-Yves has alluded to, is the broader relationship between Australia and France, which has reached several new high points recently, and will now grow even stronger.

Last May we were delighted of course to welcome President Macron to Australia, to hear him set out his vision for the Indo-Pacific region. I well recall his seminal speech on the deck of HMAS Canberra at Garden Island in my home city of Sydney and the message that he laid out for us on that occasion.

There is our partnership on what has been called the contract of the century. The future submarine program, which reached a new landmark, signature of the Strategic Partnering Agreement in Canberra only two weeks ago, and my friend Jean-Yves, I really want to acknowledge your early leadership in ensuring that we were able to get to that point, to have the right agreement, drawn up between us, agreed between us, and delivered so recently.

We know that we have steadfast people-to-people links. On Anzac Day 2018 last year, I had the great honour of visiting France for WWI centenary commemorations myself. That reminded me of how important our people-to-people links are over a century now.

In more contemporary terms we know that the rules-based global order which depends on structures and agreements which have underpinned it for decades is under pressure. It comes at a time when we have very pressing global challenges – terrorism, climate change, challenges to basic human rights, which really do require a coordinated international response.

And again, I recall well the first occasion on which we met, Jean-Yves, was a coalition meeting for the counter-Daesh group of defence ministers, right here in Paris, very early in the challenge in Iraq in particular. Your work in that regard, your leadership of the coalition has been very important.

I attended the No Money for Terror conference here in Paris last year, and look forward very much to assure you that a successful second conference takes place in Australia in November.

I'm very pleased always to have the opportunity to reaffirm our mutual commitment to multilateralism, to the rules-based global order, as we have done today. I want to wish France the very best for your hosting of the G7 this year, and I look forward to continuing our work together to strengthen and to modernize the established international system. So my friend, thank you very much for our productive discussions this evening, and for France's enduring friendship with Australia. I look forward to working with you to develop it further into the future.

JOURNALIST: [Question on Syria]

MARISE PAYNE: Thank you very much. I wanted to reinforce Australia's steadfast commitment to ensuring that our absolute focus is on addressing the threat of terror wherever it occurs in the context of the global coalition to counter Daesh.

We are a steadfast members of that group. As Jean-Yves has said, however, in relation to the most recent American statements, I think there is more detail to come from the United States and we will work with our colleagues, counterparts, and allies as that comes to hand, in relation to conditions and expectations, and I'm sure we'll have more to say about that in due course.

JOURNALIST: [Question on the Jeanne d'Arc aircraft carrier mission in the Pacific and Indo-Pacific security issues]

MARISE PAYNE: We very much welcome the engagement of very close friends in the Indo-Pacific.

We have, I think, a shared vision of the importance of the security and stability of such a key part of the world.

Australia's engagement through its Pacific Step Up as one example, but also our absolute commitment to concepts such as freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight according to international law, mean that the welcome visits of Joan D'Arc is something that we look forward to seeing.

We'll work closely with France in our region as we have over many years and as I've said in my opening remarks, it reinforces the message that President Macron gave in Sydney last year at the time of his visit, and which is part of the work that we have done in developing the AFiniti document being presented to our leaders after this meeting this evening.

So, our key priorities are shared. Our key priorities are focused on security and stability and that is something which we both work very hard on and which we both take very seriously.

- Ends -

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