HomeWorldFrench foreign minister looks to deepen defense ties with Australia

French foreign minister looks to deepen defense ties with Australia

French foreign minister looks to deepen defense ties with Australia

Dominic Giannini

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA (AAP) – The defence minister is heading to New Caledonia for a regional security gathering, as the French foreign affairs minister arrives for bilateral meetings with the federal government.

Richard Marles will be in the French territory to meet his South Pacific counterparts for talks spanning security challenges and deeper military-to-military co-operation.

While in Noumea, Mr Marles will also meet with France’s Armed Forces Minister Sebastien Lecornu to discuss Australia and France’s growing defence relationship.

“Through this forum, the militaries of the Pacific advance practical initiatives to enhance co-operation and ensure we are positioned to respond effectively to common regional security challenges together,” Mr Marles said.

Meanwhile, France’s Foreign Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna will use an address at the National Press Club in Canberra on Monday to outline her nation’s ambitions with the Australian relationship in the region.

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Ms Colonna will meet with her counterpart Penny Wong in Canberra, where she will also hold meetings with representatives from the National Library, National Archives and Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies about records relating to the d’Entrecasteaux expedition.

The French naval officer explored the Australian coast in 1792.

The foreign minister will also travel to Melbourne to oversee the start of two projects about energy transition and a second cultural one at the National Gallery of Victoria.

France is looking to re-establish a stronger presence in the region as other European nations come up with their own Pacific strategies amid, concerns over the rise of China.

The Australia-France relationship deteriorated under former Liberal prime minister Scott Morrison after he pulled the pin on a multi-billion dollar French submarine contract in favour of a US nuclear-powered design under the AUKUS agreement between Australia, the UK and US.

It hit rock bottom when French President Emmanuel Macron asserted, “I don’t think, I know”, when he was asked if Mr Morrison had lied to him about the deal.

Apart from Australia, the South Pacific Defence Ministers’ Meeting will include Chile, Fiji, France, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Tonga. The US, UK and Japan are attending as observers.

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