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Australian Envoy: Fixing Relations With NATO …

  • April 13th, 2011
  • Posted by 7thmin

nelson-massey-2.jpgAustralia’s Ambassador to the European Union, Brendan Nelson, has spoken of “tense relations” with the NATO alliance, now corrected, and has given some backing to one of the NATO allies, Turkey, in its moves to join Europe.

The Ambassador was addressing a gathering organised by the Europe Council of Australia, at Brisbane, early this month.

(Picture: Dr Nelson with Mrs Elfie Massey-Vallazza, Council President, 1.4.11).

GETTING ON BETTER TERMS

Brendan Nelson said that when appointed to his posting at Brussels late in 2009, as representative to NATO as well as the EU, the Australian government had not long negotiated a place for itself at the table, when the Alliance was debating war policy on Afghanistan.

NATO was providing the command structure for military operations and civil reconstruction in Afghanistan through ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force, which had several non-member countries taking part.

That participation was not being recognised in decision-making, with no observers at councils on Afghanistan from “Contact Countries” like Australia, New Zealand or Japan.

Dr Nelson said he’d told a European audience not long ago the Australian government had been “pissed off” about that – and he’d been interested to see the reaction filter out to his audience from the translation booths.

From April 2008 it had been re-negotiated, when Australia and the other non-NATO allies began attending summits of the alliance — most recently the visit of Prime Minister Julia Gillard to the Lisbon summit last November.

(The Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, is travelling to Europe  this week for a meeting of ISAF, in Berlin. Following a recent visit to Afghanistan he’s called it “a timely opportunity to put Australia’s views and assessments on the table.”)

All 28 NATO countries have been maintaining a presence in Afghanistan, along with 20 others. See EUAustralia Online, “NATO Decides”, 20.11.10.

RELATIONS ON A NEW LEVEL

afghanistan-australia-flag7.jpg“NATO was making decisions and telling what it had decided about the operations in which we had troops fighting and dying”, Brendan Nelson said, of the period before 2008.

“That has all changed.

“We needed to be creatively and deeply engaged, as we were seriously committed in Afghanistan.

“Relations even in the last six months have grown to an  entirely new level.

“We will never to be in the inner circle of decision-making but are now close to the middle.

“We have the tenth largest commitment, larger than half the NATO member states.”

There had been intense consultations over the crisis in Libya, where the Australian role was in the area of humanitarian aid and support for sanctions.

He said Australia had encouraged the alliance to “take a global approach” to security, and pursue its interests in security issues beyond the North Atlantic sphere of activity — extending into its own region in the Asia-Pacific.

That fitted with the extension of the range of NATO security activities into such fields as the counter-insurgency in Afghanistan, peace-keeping, counter-terrorism and cyber warfare.

TODAY’S ALLY

The Australian representative to the EU and NATO said positive engagements with Australia’s region, especially with China, were always being raised in discussion with European interests – and the country of Turkey also rated a special mention.

“I think Turkey should be a member of the European Union”, he said.

“It is an extremely important country not only to Europe but to the rest of the world.

“We should be even more engaged with Turkey than we are today.”

anzac-cove.jpgIt was a paradox he said that Turkish-Australian relations began with conflict.

Australian troops were part of the massive but unsuccessful Dardanelles expedition in 1915, landing at Gallipoli, at dawn on the 25th April.

anzac-ceremony.jpgTogether with the New Zealanders they formed the ANZAC military Corps; Anzac Day each 25th April became the day for commemorating war dead in both countries, and in recent years thousands have taken up visiting the actual Gallipoli battlefield for services on the day.

Dr Nelson has been in Australia for mid-term consultations.

This has been the second of three articles by Lee Duffield, on EU-Australian issues raised in his address to the Australian Council of Europe.

Reference

Hon. Kevin Rudd MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Canberra, “Minister visit to Vietnam and NATO/ISAF meeting”, (Media release),  12.4.11.

Pictures

Troops ADF; Anzac Cove anzacday.biz; commemoration anzacday.reservation

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