Joint press conference with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle

Subjects: Australian-German relations; Iran; Syria

Transcript, E&OE, proof only


25 January 2012

Guido Westerwelle: (delivers statement in German): Kevin thank you so much for coming to Berlin and Germany. Thank you so much for being here once again - it is not your first time at Villa Borsig. It is great to have such a good friend of Germany here as a guest. Thank you so much

Kevin Rudd: Thank you very much Guido. Thank you very much Foreign Minister for being such a gracious host during my visit to Berlin.

This year, as Guido just said, we celebrate 60 years of diplomatic relations. This relationship has become bigger and broader in recent years, and this is because we in Australia judge our partnership with Germany to be important; important not just for Europe but important around the world, and important bilaterally. We also believe that Germany is an overwhelming force for good in the world and its leadership in Europe is respected.

I thank the German Foreign Minister today for confirming our joint agreement to work towards a strategic partnership between our two countries. This we believe is important because it signals taking our relationship to a new level - no longer focussed exclusively on the bilateral but on our common values and interests that we take to every region of the world and the global debate itself through the councils of the United Nations. This is important and therefore we will join with German officials in finalising the details of the partnership during the course of the months ahead.

Of course we see evidence of this partnership already on the ground. We work together in Afghanistan and more broadly across the international community. It may surprise some to know that through the work of the German aid agency we are now their single largest international partner participating in Australia-German projects in more than 10 countries around the world, some 14 projects already. We would like to do more of that together - effective development on the ground.

We spoke at some length about the ongoing debate in Europe, and the Euro and the financial crisis as it's described around the world. We would say this to our friends in Germany - we strongly support Franco-German leadership in response to difficult challenges in recent times, both on the question of financial firewalls and the question of fiscal compact and fiscal discipline as well as the broader economic reform program which we need to see unfold in wider Europe. What happens in Europe with the financial crisis affects the world; it affects Asia; it therefore affects Australia.

We in Australia are very much part of the growth continent of the 21st century - what happens in the Asia Pacific, the Asia Indian Ocean region, the rise of China, the rise of India, and other major emerging economies such as Indonesia, will affect not just our region but will affect Europe and the world in the decades to come.

China, this decade, will become the single largest economy in the world by whichever measure. Therefore in the history of the world it will be, for the first time in 200 years, that a non-democracy, the first time in several hundred years the first time a non-Western country, will be the largest economy in the world. Therefore we look forward to working with China and our partners in America and our partners in Europe in taking forward a conciliatory and cooperative global rules-based order into the future.

As part of our unfolding strategic partnership we of course discussed the challenges which arise in the wider Middle East. We discussed in particular the challenges which are presented by the policies and actions of the Iranian regime. I would acknowledge German leadership and the decisions which were taken most recently in Brussels only on Monday morning concerning a new raft of sanctions against the Iranian regime. The Government of Australia fully supports these sanctions. The Government of Australia is enacting now parallel measures against the Iranian regime. We do this not simply as some sort of academic foreign policy exercise. This is an exercise in real foreign policy to convey a real message to the Iranian regime and to all its parts and the Iranian people that there is a fundamental economic cost to be paid by a state which continues to defy an international order as expressed through the UN Security Council and as expressed through the International Atomic Energy Agency. We view with grave concern the emergence and continued development of the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

If I could conclude my remarks along these lines - this relationship between Australia and Germany has come a long, long way in a relatively short period of time. We believe it is going to be an excellent relationship in the future. Part of my reason for coming to Berlin today is to underline the importance of this 60th anniversary, but it's also part of what I'm seeking to do in Europe not just this visit but in the last several years to underpin the strength of our emerging strategic partnerships with the governments of France, the United Kingdom, with Germany and the European Union itself. And my deliberations in recent days with Foreign Minister Juppe, Foreign Secretary Hague, President Van Rompuy and others in Brussels that is precisely what we are doing, because we view, not just Germany, but Europe as a force for good in the world at a time of great and emerging instabilities and therefore we wish to work with our partners strongly in shaping a peaceful and prosperous future not just in Europe, not just in the Asia Pacific region but globally as well.

Finally, Guido, belatedly Happy 50th Birthday.

I'm sorry I missed the biggest party and I gather the biggest event in the German social calendar, but happy birthday belatedly and as someone who's already passed the 50 landmark, may there be many more happy returns to come.

Guido Westerwelle: Thank you so much and let me assure you that your country was excellently represented at this birthday party by your ambassador. I had the impression that he liked it. Thank you so much.

AFP: A question to the both of you if I may. You talked about Iran but I wonder if Syria also played a part in your discussions today. Moscow has said they are open to constructive dialogue on Syria, so I was wondering do you detect any movement in their position, and how confident are you that a tough UNSC resolution will be passed? And Minister Rudd you mentioned Australia was already enacting sanctions on Iran — can you explain what is actually going on and how that's working in practice.

Guido Westerwelle: Well let me answer about Syria. As I said we discussed the situation in the Middle East, and of course Syria is always a topic on our agenda.

From my point of view the latest decisions of the Arab League will be important and a good time for other members of the Security Council to think about the policy once again. I think it is necessary that the initiative of the Arab League in New York to ask for a resolution will be successful — this is what we want to support. As for the latest gestures and signals it is too early to make comments on this, because we are not seeking words and declarations, we are seeking results in the interests of the people who are fighting for their freedom.

Kevin Rudd: On the question of Syria, yes it has been a feature of our discussions, because what happens in Syria affects the entire international community because what we continue to see there day by day is the murder of innocent civilians.

We commend also the recent diplomacy on the part of the Arab League and we note a discussion that has occurred most recently on their report in Cairo. As Foreign Minister Westerwelle has said the early consideration of the Arab League's findings in New York of the Security Council is important and we would urge other members of the Security Council to adopt a positive approach about what further actions now need to be taken to cause the Syrian regime to change its posture. Every day that goes that by, more Syrian civilians die.

On the question of Australian sanctions against Iran — we have in Australia recently passed legislation which provides the Government with the opportunity to embrace autonomous sanctions - that is those which are not necessarily connected with actions by the UN Security Council. That, I am advised, will be the vehicle through which we enact parallel sanctions to those adopted in Brussels the other day. We think that is the right approach for the simple reason that we need to convey a concerted global message to the Iranians of the unacceptability globally of their behaviour.

Guido Westerwelle: The more countries that participate in the sanctions, the better is the chance that they will be successful.


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