Australia, a Key Partner in NATO's security mission
'You are a highly appreciated partner and contributor': these were the words of welcome and appreciation that the NATO Secretary General expressed to the group of visiting Australian parliamentarians at NATO Headquarters today. 'In today's world where the defence of our borders may take us far away, we realize that we cannot accomplish our security mission without our Partners around the Globe', Mr. Rasmussen said. 'In this respect, operations in Afghanistan and Australia's considerable contribution to the International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan (ISAF) since 2006 are a 'clear testimony of it'' he added.
Australia is the largest non-NATO troop contributor in Afghanistan with 1,550 soldiers mainly deployed in Uruzgan province, a long contested area. Afghanistan, but also the forthcoming Chicago Summit, smart defence and NATO-Russia's relations were amongst the issues of discussion between the parliamentarians and the Secretary General.
The Australian delegation included senators and members of the House of Representatives, representing both the governing Labor Party and opposition Liberal Party of Australia. Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon, MP, Australian Labour Party; Mr. Michael Danby, MP, Australian Labour Party; Senator Anne McEwen, Australian Labour Party, Ms. Nola Marino, MP, Liberal Party of Australia; Mr. Alex Hawke, MP, Liberal Party of Australia and Senator Gary Humphries, Liberal Party of Australia are key legislators interested in different aspects of defence and security in their home country.
The visit provided the participants with the opportunity of discussing the most important security issues of common interest with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and other high level NATO officials and experts, as well as from NATO's highest military headquarters, Allied Command Operations. In addition to Afghanistan, discussions addressed the issues of emerging global security challenges, and the Alliance's active engagement in a more efficient and flexible partnership based on reciprocity, mutual benefit and mutual respect.
NATO's relations with Australia have fast developed during the past years, resulting in a structured, friendly and operational relationship. An important milestone in NATO-Australia relations was reached when - during his official visit to NATO in January 2012 -, Mr. Kevin Rudd, the then Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs accredited Ambassador Dr. Brendan Nelson as Australia's representative to NATO.