The Australian Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Defence, Bob Carr and Stephen Smith, and the UK Foreign and Defence Secretaries, William Hague and Philip Hammond, met today for the fifth Australia-UK Ministerial Consultations (AUKMIN). The city of Perth, Australia's Indian Ocean capital, provided an ideal backdrop, as we reaffirmed our commitment to supporting security, peace and stability.
Australia and the United Kingdom enjoy an exceptionally close relationship, which is founded on shared values and common strategic and economic interests. Our partnership has deep historic roots and, as our talks today confirmed, it continues to evolve to allow us to meet contemporary challenges together. In this increasingly complex global strategic environment it is more important than ever that trusted friends work together to address common challenges.
The importance both our countries place on our security partnership is reflected in the signing today of the Australia-United Kingdom Defence and Security Cooperation Treaty. This agreement formalises our existing bilateral defence relationship. It provides, for the first time, an overarching strategic framework for our bilateral defence relationship and encapsulates our close practical cooperation, including through the exchange of information and analysis on strategic defence and security issues; engagement on science, technology, equipment and support matters; ways to achieve value for money in defence acquisition and capability sustainment; and defence reform and transformation.
Our meeting took place as a serious hostage crisis was unfolding in Algeria. We expressed our sympathy for the victims of this outrage, which reinforces our determination to work together on security challenges.
Cooperating for Stability and Growth in Asia and elsewhere
Australia and the UK recognise the growing economic and strategic weight of Asia, and the importance of continued growth in the region at this time for the global economy. Both countries are committed to deepening engagement with partners in the region, and contributing constructively to regional security. We recognise the importance of stability for sustained economic growth.
We share a common interest in the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, freedom of navigation, and unimpeded lawful commerce. We encourage all countries in the Asia-Pacific region to resolve disputes, including in the maritime domain, by peaceful means and in accordance with international law.
Both countries value the role played by ASEAN-centred regional institutions in promoting dialogue and cooperation between countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including on security issues of common concern. We recognise the need to continue strengthening the capacity and enhancing the effectiveness of those institutions.
We recognised the important steps taken on democratic reform in Myanmar/Burma. We will continue working together to support this process over the next year, including by encouraging responsible investment. We reaffirmed our commitment to assisting Myanmar/Burma's development, demonstrated by the joint visit of DFID's Permanent Secretary and AusAID's Director General later this month. Our work together in Myanmar/Burma supports the education of thousands of children, delivers essential health services, enhances livelihoods and supports improved governance.
Our talks today featured a productive exchange on the growing importance of the Indian Ocean and Indian Ocean rim. We agreed to enhance cooperation in the region, and to support the development of multilateral forums and efforts, including an increasing role for the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC). We welcome India's growing role in the Indian Ocean as a particularly important multilateral partner.
Australia and the UK will strengthen cooperation on global economic issues as we look forward to Australia's G20 Presidency in 2014. We reaffirm the G20 as the pre-eminent forum for global economic cooperation, and through coordinated policy action within the G20 we will seek to restore global economic growth and promote job creation. Our governments also recognise the centrality of a stable financial sector, open trade and well-governed, representative and effectively resourced international institutions in securing economic recovery and long-term prosperity, and will work together through the G20 to promote these ends.
We will look for opportunities to work together to promote open economies and help our partners to tackle corruption. We affirmed the importance of the G20 Anti‑Corruption Working Group and will continue to implement its ambitious and far-sighted Action Plan. Australia appreciates the valuable contribution that the UK has made to the Working Group, particularly as co-chair of the Group in 2012. We will also work together through the G20's Development Working Group to assist developing countries in their pursuit of inclusive and sustainable economic growth, and poverty reduction.
Our governments have long recognised the relationship between development and peace and stability. We have a strong development cooperation relationship, underpinned by the 2008 Partnership Agreement between AusAID and DFID. Our work together extends from policy engagement through to practical collaboration on the ground, for example in providing joint assistance to improve educational access and effectiveness in Pakistan. Today, we recognised in particular the importance of continuing to work together in fragile and conflict-affected states and in implementing the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States.
Addressing contemporary global security challenges
The UK welcomed Australia's election to the UN Security Council, which brings a new dimension to our work in tackling global security challenges. Australia and the UK will cooperate closely on Council business, and work with other Council members to ensure timely and appropriate action is taken on situations of concern. The UK was delighted to offer to host visiting Australian diplomats in about a dozen of its diplomatic premises throughout Africa as Australia expands its involvement in this important region during its Security Council membership.
We had wide-ranging discussions on the complex security environment both countries face, including nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and North Asia; the persistent and evolving threat of terrorism; the growing cyber-security challenge; and piracy at sea. We agreed to continue to cooperate closely in maintaining and strengthening the international frameworks for combating WMD and missile proliferation – the NPT, BTWC and CWC as well as on controls on the export and transit of proliferation sensitive goods, and the Proliferation Security Initiative which will mark its 10th anniversary this year.
We reiterated our shared condemnation of the DPRK's long-range rocket launch on 12 December last year which was a violation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874, and agreed to work together to urge the DPRK to abandon its ballistic missile and nuclear programs. We also agreed we would continue to work together to improve the appalling human rights situation in the DPRK, including through support for the work of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and enhancing the effectiveness of UN Human Rights mechanisms addressing the situation there.
Australia and the UK condemn the violence in Syria and the tragic loss of life. We continue to call on President Assad to step aside so that peaceful political transition can occur. We support the efforts of the Joint Special Representative of the UN and the Arab League, Lakhdar Brahimi, to end the violence in Syria and bring about a process of political transition. We shared concerns about the stockpile of chemical weapons in Syria and agreed that any use of these weapons would be unacceptable. We will maintain pressure on the Assad regime never to use these weapons and to take all responsible measures to keep the weapons secure. The UK expressed strong support for Australia's proposal to protect medical facilities and workers in Syria. Australia and the UK agreed to work together and with others to secure the commitment of all parties to this end, in addition to broader efforts to facilitate humanitarian access for aid workers in order to minimise the suffering of the civilian population.
We shared our deep concerns over the nature of Iran's nuclear program and the threat this poses to regional stability and security. We call on Iran to build international confidence in the peaceful nature of its nuclear program, engage constructively with the P5+1 process and comply with resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and International Atomic Energy Agency.
We agreed that there is a particularly urgent need at this time for progress on the Middle East Peace Process. The UK and Australia call on the US to lead a major effort in 2013 to achieve a negotiated two-state solution with a secure Israel alongside a Palestinian state. History has shown that only the US has the influence and capability to bring both sides together. Past progress has only been achieved through US leadership. Strong US engagement is in the interests of Israelis, Palestinians and the wider region. Resolution of the Israeli Palestinian conflict will strengthen the forces of democracy and moderation throughout the Middle East. The Palestinian Authority and the new Israeli government must engage seriously in negotiations without preconditions. Actions by both sides must be in the interests of peace. Neither side should create obstacles to that objective. We call on Israel to stop settlement activity. All settlements are illegal under international law and settlement activity undermines the prospects for peace. Australia and the United Kingdom expressed particular concern regarding the recent settlement announcements of the Israel Government including the proposed development of the E1 area.
Australia and the United Kingdom both voted not to oppose enhanced Palestinian status in the United Nations. We call on the Palestinian Authority to exercise restraint and avoid provocative actions at international forums. Australia and the United Kingdom urge the Palestinians to resolve their internal differences, unite for peace and cease acts of violence against Israel. In particular, we call for the Palestinians to abide by the terms of the Gaza ceasefire and to stop all rocket attacks.
Our soldiers have fought together in Afghanistan, and we pay tribute to their sacrifice. Our countries confirmed support for the transition to full Afghan security responsibility by the end of 2014 and commitment to contribute to a post-2014 mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Security Forces. This includes working together with New Zealand on training Afghan National Army (ANA) officers at the ANA Officer Academy. We have also committed to support Afghanistan's development beyond transition. We welcomed the recent strengthening of relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, recognised the importance of ongoing efforts towards a political settlement and stressed the significance of a credible and inclusive Presidential election in 2014.
We will continue to cooperate closely on cyber security. We agreed that UK and Australian officials will work further on global cyber security capacity building, to ensure that other countries have the capacity and skills to tackle on-line threats. We are building upon the cyber security lessons learned during the 2012 Olympics, including working with industry. We will intensify our collaboration as we work toward tangible outcomes from the next international conference in Seoul following on from the successful London and Budapest Conferences on Cyberspace in 2011 and 2012.
In Somalia we welcome tangible progress made in recent months, both politically following the end of the transitional period, and in improving security. We will support the Somali government in delivering its priorities including responding to ongoing needs for life-saving assistance, and will work together to build longer-term resilience and increase food security. We will continue our efforts to strengthen security and tackle piracy. We discussed the important work being done by the Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecution and Intelligence Coordination Centre (RAPPICC), which Australia will support by seconding personnel.
We shared our concerns about the security situation in Mali, including recent advances by rebel and extremist groups, and expressed our support for recent French military assistance provided to the Malian authorities. We committed to work closely together in the UN Security Council to expedite the deployment of the African-led International Stabilisation Force in Mali (AFISMA) authorised by UN Security Council Resolution 2085.
Both countries reaffirmed their commitment to press for the conclusion of the negotiation of a robust UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in March 2013 under Australia's chairmanship of the process. We agreed we would continue to encourage support for developing countries to implement the Treaty, for example, through mechanisms such as the Multi-donor Support Facility for the ATT and UNPoA. Both countries are committing to providing financial support to the process.
Supporting and promoting our values
The close relationship between our two countries is underpinned by common values, including a strong commitment to universal human rights, the rule of law, democratic governance and peaceful coexistence of different cultures and faiths. We agreed today to continue to work together to promote those values.
With our partners, we have worked hard to modernise the Commonwealth, following the success of the Perth CHOGM in 2011, including through the adoption of the new Commonwealth Charter, achieved under Australia's leadership as Commonwealth Chair-in-Office. We now look forward to events to promote the Charter, notably around Commonwealth Day on 11 March 2013. We will continue to work together, with other Commonwealth members and through Commonwealth structures, to ensure Commonwealth values set out in the Charter are upheld, including in the run-up to CHOGM 2013.
Both countries place a high priority on the security of women and girls, in particular, and on the protection of civilians. Australia and the UK will continue to support the UN's efforts to prevent and respond to sexual violence in situations of armed violence. Australia commends Foreign Secretary Hague's initiative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict. The UK welcomes Australia's hosting of the OSCE conference 'Improving the Security of Women and Girls' in Adelaide in March this year. The UK and Australia will explore options to address sexual and gender-based violence, including in the context of the UK's Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative. Australia will strengthen the availability of gender-based violence expertise on the Australian Civilian Corps register through targeted recruitment action. We are determined to work together to promote women's rights and prevent sexual violence in our collective efforts to address contemporary global security and humanitarian challenges, including through our UNSC membership.
We will examine how we can cooperate more on international human rights, including with multilateral organisations, development partners, civil society and business. We welcome the electoral processes begun by Fiji. While we are concerned about some setbacks, we will continue to work constructively to encourage a return to democracy there.
Our nations strongly support the principles of open government. Australia values the leadership shown by the UK and others in the establishment of the Open Government Partnership, which Australia is currently considering joining.
Maximising efficiency by working together
We discussed the challenges we both face in conducting foreign policy, providing security, and delivering development assistance at a time of increasing resource constraints. We agreed to look for opportunities to get better results for our money through cooperative action and resource sharing.
Both countries are committed to fostering a close relationship between our respective defence forces and organisations, and agreed to explore further bilateral activities that would promote security and build capacity.
We agreed to give fresh impetus to efforts to identify the scope for increased defence procurement cooperation. In particular, we called for an early joint report on the possibilities for mutually beneficial collaboration on Australia's future frigate and the UK's global combat ship. We will also examine the possibility of collaboration in respect of Australia's submarine capability.
Australia and the UK have a solid foundation for cooperation on defence transformation. We recognise the value of sharing reform experiences to enable the capture and implementation of international best practice in reform delivery and management. In a tight fiscal environment with evolving reform agendas, this cooperation and collaboration is paramount.
We reiterated the importance of continued bilateral cooperation in defence science and technology. Our new Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperative Use of Strategic Defence Science and Technology Facilities and Equipment will enable us to make better use of specialist facilities and respective capacities.
As close partners, Australia and the UK will increase cooperation on the management of our overseas diplomatic estates. This will complement the sharing of facilities already undertaken by, for example, our development and visa agencies.
To facilitate closer cooperation, we have also signed a MOU to permit exchange of our diplomatic staff, so that we can each gain from the expertise of the other.
Our successful collaboration on aid delivery, including through each country contributing funding to programs administered by the other through delegated cooperation arrangements, allows us to maximise value for money from our respective aid programs.
Taking Forward the Partnership
We commit to meet again in the UK next year.
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