450 words - January 21, 2013 | © DiploNews, all rights reserved.
The Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, William Hague, paid an official visit to Perth, Australia within the framework of the annual Australia-UK ministerial summit. The Secretary delivered an important speech on Britain's relationship and emphasized Australia's achievements since the founding of New South Wales 225 years ago. His visit brought the opportunity for the two countries to strengthen their diplomatic and defense cooperation ahead of the challenging years to come.
First and foremost, Australia won in October 2012 a seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for 2013 and 2014. It has been 27 years since Australia last served on the Council. Britain sees "this as a major opportunity to work closely together over the next two years," especially on the Middle East Process, Syria and Iran's nuclear program, Mr. Hague said.
As Australia has become "the only country in the world with whom Britain has a formal agreement to share confidential diplomatic reports on a systematic basis," the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) will continue to upgrade its cooperation with Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) with the sharing of diplomatic premises in some countries, as it has been already experienced successfully with Canada and New Zealand. Such tangible steps to strengthen the UK-Australia foreign policy relationship are very likely to "break new ground to advance our common interest and build up UK's global role," Mr. Hague underlined.
Second, William Hague was accompanied by his colleague Defense Secretary Philip Hammond. With their Australian counterpart, Defense Minister Stephen Smith, they signed a new Defense and Security Cooperation Treaty which is to give "strategic direction" of the two countries' defense relations. The treaty "will drive forward closer cooperation on a wide range of issues, making our forces more interoperable and maximizing our capabilities," said Mr. Hammond, and it "will see the two countries working together in areas such as cyber security, defense reform, personnel exchange, equipment, and science and technology," an official statement further said.
Areas of potential cooperation notably include the building of future frigates, with the Royal Navy's Type 26 design, as "the first of many opportunities for future collaboration in times of budget pressures." For instance, BAE Systems, a British multinational defense, security and aerospace company headquartered in London, is the prime contractor of Australia's Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) ships, currently under construction at a dockyard in Williamstown, Melbourne. Also, the Defence and Industry Conference will be held in Adelaide in 2014. It may be an opportunity for the British industry to showcase its most robust technologies to an Asia-Pacific region which represents the fastest growing percentage of world arms exports.
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