Australia will supply the gunpowder necessary for France’s 155mm ammunition to be sent to Ukraine as soon possible, in a major reset of the two countries’ relationship.
The deal – worth “several million (Australian) dollars” will ensure Ukraine receives thousands of shells, the first shipment of which will arrive within two months.
While the move is to help “share the bill” on Ukrainian aid, the joint venture comes as the two countries reset ties damaged by the former government.
Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles, and Foreign Minister Penny Wong met with their French counterparts in Paris overnight – the first such meeting since before the $90 billion Franco-Australian submarine deal was scrapped by Scott Morrison in 2021.
While Anthony Albanese has recommitted his government to the AUKUS deal, his ministers have been working to get the partnership back on track, which president Emmanuel Macron had called a “betrayal”.
Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles, French Armies Minister Sebastien Lecornu, French Foreign and European Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna and Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong met in Paris overnight. Picture: Yoan VALAT / POOL / AFP
French Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu said the previous government’s “rigidity” had reverted to a “fresh blank sheet of paper”, paving the way for Monday’s 2+2 ministerial meetings.
On the donated ammunition, Mr Lecornu said the deal forged by the two governments would offer “robust and resilient supplies over time to supply the Ukrainian army”.
“With two countries (involved) it allows us to pool and build up and share. It is, I should say, is also mercantile – sharing the bill,” he said.
Mr Marles said in addition to wanting to offer more aid to Ukraine, it was also a “statement”.
“We unashamedly want to work together and make an important statement,” Mr Marles said.
“We wanted to act together as a statement of how importantly Australia and France regard support of Ukraine in the current conflict. We wanted to make it really clear that Australia and France stand together in support of Ukraine in the face of aggression from Russia.”
Tensions have thawed since the former government scrapped its $90 billion submarine deal with France. Picture: Yoan VALAT / POOL / AFP)
The group also talked about defence and security in the Indo-Pacific, given both countries have a vested interest in the long term outcomes.
In a joint statement, the ministers reiterated their “strong opposition to any coercion or destabilising actions in the South China Sea”.
They also “underscored the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and called for the peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues through dialogue, without the threat or use of force or coercion.”
They did note that continued cooperation with China was “essential” as both countries work to fight climate change, protect biodiversity, ensure food security and drive down debt in vulnerable countries.
Read related topics:ChinaScott Morrison