I visited Brussels from Tuesday 7 June to Thursday 9 June for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Defence Ministers’ Meeting on Afghanistan.
The NATO/ISAF Defence Ministers’ Meeting comes at a difficult time in Australia’s commitment in Afghanistan with the recent tragic deaths of Sergeant Brett Wood, Lance Corporal Andrew Jones, Lieutenant Marcus Case and Sapper Rowan Robinson.
The Defence Ministers' Meeting was a timely opportunity to consider progress in Afghanistan, particularly given the beginning of the northern summer fighting season and the commencement of transition to Afghan-led security by 2014.
Defence Ministers also noted that it was time to start discussing NATO/ISAF's post-2014 commitment to Afghanistan.
The Ministers also endorsed the NATO Rule Of Law Field Support Mission. Improving governance is an essential element in ensuring the sustainability of the transition process.
I held bilateral meetings with NATO Secretary General Rasmussen, Supreme Allied Commander Europe Admiral Stavridis, Commander ISAF General Patreaus and NATO Senior Civilian Representative Ambassador Gass.
Afghan Defence Minister Wardak updated the meeting on progress in the campaign via video teleconference from Kabul.
This was US Defence Secretary Gates last Defence Ministers' Meeting.
During my formal bilateral meeting with Secretary Gates, I thanked him for his leading role in bringing the right military and political strategy to Afghanistan along with the necessary resources and leadership.
I also thanked Secretary Gates for his contribution to strengthening the Australia-US Alliance, most recently through our collaborative work on the US Global Force Posture Review.
I discussed preliminary thoughts for the commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of World War I with Belgian Defence Minister De Crem and French Defence Minister Longuet.
I also held bilateral meetings with a range of NATO Defence Ministers, including UK Secretary of State for Defence Fox, Canadian Defence Minister Mackay, Swedish Defence Minister Tolgfors, Dutch Defence Minister Hillen, Italian Defence Minister La Russa, Spanish Defence Minister Chacon and German Defence Minister de Maiziere.
In addition to discussions on Afghanistan, I discussed with NATO Ministers the NATO led campaign in Libya and international efforts to counter piracy off the Horn of Africa.