French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault : "A new dynamic in the relationship with Australia"

    Chamber's News, VIC  | 

    France has pledged to unite with Australia in a "relationship of confidence" as the two nations move to cement the $50 billion submarine deal.

    French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault was in Melbourne on Friday for talks with Australia's Julie Bishop, where the two signed a wide-ranging agreement, including a promise to finalise "the exchange and protection of classified information"

    France was acutely embarrassed last year by the leak of thousands of pages of sensitive submarine documents by the same French shipbuilder selected to Australia's next fleet, which also led to calls for an inquiry in Australia.

    Although the leak related to Scorpene-class submarines bound for India - and not the Baracuda-class that will be designed for the 12 Australian subs - France has moved to reassure Australia about the security of its submarine plans.

    Mr Ayrault said on Friday the submarine deal involved "unprecedented technical transfers" and the deal would led to a new dynamic in the relationship with Australia.

    Ms Bishop said the two had discussed Syria and Iraq and the war against Islamic State, ahead of an international meeting this month in Washington on the conflict.

    Mr Ayrault has also urged countries to take a generous approach to refugees, tweeting in January that "accepting refugees is a duty of solidarity".

    Asked by Fairfax Media whether France would consider a deal similar to the arrangement struck with the United States to settle refugees from Nauru and Manus Island, he said through a translator only that each country should shoulder their responsibility in line with international law, and that France and Australia have taken in many refugees.

    Mr Ayrault also said France was supporting the Pacific French-territory New Caledonia, which expected to hold a referendum on independence sometime in the second half of 2018.

    New Calendonia is roughly two-and-a-half hours from Sydney and in the 1980s tensions in the territory turned violent.

    Ms Bishop said Australia has supported New Caledonia joining the Pacific Island Forum last year and would seek to engage the territory in talks on a regional free trade deal, known as PACER Plus.



    Image: Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade. 

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