|Last update: 27-Sep-2006 11:40||NATO Update|
NATO and Australia look to closer cooperation
Visiting NATO HQ on 25 September, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said he looked forward to practical ways of building cooperation with NATO.
“We confront many challenges together, even though we are on opposite sides of the world,” he said, citing weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and failed states as examples.
Minister Downer met with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, and addressed the North Atlantic Council, the Alliance’s principal decision-making body.
The Secretary General praised Australia for its contribution to NATO’s Afghanistan mission. Australia is deploying about 400 personnel as well as light armoured vehicles and helicopters in support of reconstruction efforts in the south of the country.
The Minister’s visit comes ahead of NATO’s Riga Summit, where the Alliance is looking to strengthen its cooperation with countries that are not part of the Alliance’s formal Partnership networks, but share the same democratic values, such as Australia.
“The threats are global, and NATO needs global partners,” Mr. De Hoop Scheffer told reporters.
He said this did not mean building heavy structures, but being pragmatic, and said cooperation with Australia was an example.
This was the second visit by Minister Downer to NATO. In 2004, he became the first senior Australian official to visit NATO.
In 2005, NATO and Australia signed an agreement on the exchange of classified information, paving the way for greater cooperation.