Stephen Smith MP
Minister for Defence
Today I met the NATO Deputy Secretary-General, His Excellency Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero.
Ambassador Bisogniero is visiting Australia from 5-8 February to discuss strengthening the strategic partnership between Australia and NATO and increasing practical cooperation between Australia and NATO on new and emerging security challenges.
Australia is the largest non-NATO contributor to Afghanistan and a key contributor to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Australia’s commitment in Afghanistan is focused on training and mentoring the Afghan National Army 4th Brigade in Uruzgan Province to assume responsibility for the Province’s security. In addition, the Special Operations Task Group operates to disrupt insurgent operations and supply routes.
Ambassador Bisogniero thanked Australia for its leadership and outstanding contribution to the ISAF in Afghanistan. He also offered his condolences to the families of the 22 Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
Australia and NATO have strong reasons to cooperate together beyond Afghanistan.
The challenges of cyber security, international terrorism, nuclear proliferation and maritime security are enduring and reach beyond both Australia and Europe’s immediate region.
Ambassador Bisogniero’s visit closely follows the release at the Lisbon Summit in November 2010 of the new NATO Strategic Concept, which outlined NATO’s interests in broadening its role in global security, and identifies new and fundamental security tasks required of NATO.
Australia welcomes NATO’s acknowledgement in its Strategic Concept of the importance of working with partners such as us. With the launch of the Strategic Concept, there is now a solid basis for greater involvement of partners in NATO’s activities.
NATO-Australia working relations are already close, with Australia’s participation in a range of NATO working groups in areas such as military logistics, communications and information systems. Australia also has substantial bilateral defence relationships with key NATO allies, including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany and Spain.
Yesterday, Ambassador Bisogniero met with the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, and the Secretary of Defence, Dr Ian Watt.
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