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Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations 2008 Joint Communiqué

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Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith, Australian Minister for Defence Joel Fitzgibbon, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, met in Canberra on 23 February 2008 for Australia-United States Ministerial (AUSMIN) consultations. The discussions confirmed the two countries' strong commitment to the alliance and to working cooperatively to meet common challenges.

The Alliance

Australia and the United States reaffirmed the enduring strength of the alliance and its firm basis in shared values, high levels of trust and a record of cooperation and shared sacrifice. Both sides recalled the long history of defence cooperation, reaching back to the world wars, and given contemporary resonance by their current overseas commitments. They noted that ANZUS, strengthened by more than fifty years of cooperation and invoked for the first time following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, continues to be the foundation of a dynamic and broad-ranging security relationship. Both sides agreed that the Australia-United States alliance will continue to make a valuable contribution to stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific and beyond.

The discussions reflected the global dimension of Australia-United States cooperation with both sides reiterating their commitment to working together to confront contemporary security challenges, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and global terrorism. Both sides underlined that Australia and the United States benefit from substantial convergence in their strategic and security policy priorities.

Working Together to Meet Common Challenges

Australia and the United States emphasised their commitment to a stable, united and democratic Iraq. They discussed plans for the mid-year withdrawal of Australia's battle group from southern Iraq, as well as both sides' commitment to strengthening the capacity of Iraq's government and improving conditions for the Iraqi people. Australia and the United States see the International Compact with Iraq as providing partners the best framework for contributing to Iraqi self-sufficiency. They called on the international community, including Iraq's neighbours, to assist Iraq's development as a peaceful and democratic country.

Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to stabilisation and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. The hopes of the Afghan people for a stable, secure and prosperous future depend on the long-term solid support of the international community. To this end, the United States and Australia emphasised the importance of working with international partners and the Government of Afghanistan to develop a comprehensive strategy to integrate more effectively security, reconstruction and development activities. They called on the international community, and in particular NATO members, to sustain and enhance contributions to Afghanistan.

The two countries agreed on the need for constructive, long-term engagement with Pakistan and discussed the results of recent democratic elections there. As a key partner for the international community's efforts in Afghanistan, both sides commended Pakistan for its efforts there and its work to combat extremism.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their strong support for efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East, and in particular for the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority launched at the Annapolis Conference. They emphasised their strong desire to see rapid progress to implement the Roadmap and encouraged both parties to prevent day-to-day developments from undermining their shared objective of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement by the end of 2008. Both countries expressed concern at the humanitarian situation in Gaza and remain committed to practical measures to assist the Palestinian people.

The United States and Australia noted with concern the continued political impasse in Lebanon over the election of a new President. They reaffirmed their support for an independent and democratic Lebanon free from outside interference or violence.

Regional Cooperation

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to working closely with the countries of Southeast Asia in order to promote regional prosperity and security. They agreed to continue to build capacity in Southeast Asia in key areas such as counter-terrorism and maritime security. Specifically, both sides agreed to assist regional countries to improve port security and to constrain the movement of terrorist finances.

Australia and the United States noted the importance of increasing, broad-based engagement with Indonesia as a democratic partner and welcomed Indonesia'sgrowing role in regional affairs. Both countries are encouraged by Indonesia's good progress in strengthening democracy, its commitment to fighting corruption and reforming the military and its strong performance in combating terrorism. They reiterated their commitment to supporting Indonesia in these efforts, including by strengthening Indonesian security and disaster relief capabilities.

The United States and Australia agreed to continue their close collaboration with the Philippines, including strategic-level efforts such as defence reform, building capacity and military professionalism.

Both countries welcomed Thailand's return to a democratically-elected government.

Australia and the United States shared concern over developments in Burma and the lack of progress towards genuine political reform, national reconciliation, and a transition to democracy. Both sides called on the Burmese regime to cooperate with UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari in starting a legitimate dialogue with democratic and ethnic minority groups.

Australia and the United States condemned the 11 February attacks on East Timor's democratically elected leadership and expressed hope that President Ramos-Horta would make a speedy and full recovery. Both countries welcomed the response of the Timorese Government to the crisis. The two countries reaffirmed their commitment to providing long-term support to East Timor to address its development and security challenges.

The United States and Australia agreed to consult closely on the evolution of regional fora such as the ASEAN Regional Forum, and to build on the successes of the 2007 APEC summit to enhance APEC's contributions to regional cooperation. The two countries pledged to continue to work closely with Japan through the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue (TSD), noting the importance of this and other fora in promoting shared interests on a range of global and regional issues.
Australia and the United States welcomed China's increased engagement in regional and global institutions, and encouraged it to continue to enhance its efforts to address contemporary challenges in a constructive manner. They encouraged China to further build regional confidence in its intentions, including by adopting a transparent approach to its military modernisation.

The United States and Australia recognised that India's stature as a democratic and prosperous country provides a unique opportunity to advance shared political, economic, and security interests in the region. The countries highlighted their wish to work effectively with India to counter terrorism, drug trafficking, and nuclear proliferation. Both countries noted the significance of the U.S.-India Civil-Nuclear Cooperation Initiative.

Australia and the United States confirmed their ongoing commitment to promoting good governance, rule of law, and economic development in the Pacific. In this regard, they noted the important role the Pacific Islands Forum plays towards stability in the region. They called upon Fiji Interim Government Prime Minister Bainimarama to adhere to his commitment to restore democratic government in Fiji by holding elections no later than March 2009. Both countries welcomed moves by the Pacific region to enhance regional law enforcement cooperation, including on fisheries and maritime law, as reflected in the Pacific Islands Forum Vava'u Declaration and Leaders' undertaking to examine new multilateral arrangements for exchange of fisheries law enforcement data and enforcement cooperation. The United States expressed a keen interest in engaging in such discussions.

Countering Proliferation

Australia and the United States welcomed progress towards the DPRK's denuclearisation made under the Six-Party Talks process during 2007. They reiterated that a declaration of the DPRK's nuclear programs is an essential step toward the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and urged the DPRK to come forward with a complete and correct declaration as soon as possible.
Australia and the United States agreed that the illicit transfer and unauthorised access to man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) by terrorist and other non-state actors pose an on-going potential threat to international civil and military aviation. They agreed to continue their efforts to encourage the international community to adopt and adhere to strengthened MANPADS counter-proliferation controls, including implementing United Nations General Assembly resolution 62/40; other multilateral and regional commitments; offers of assistance to help countries reduce the vulnerabilities of airports to MANPADS; and involvement in U.S. stockpile security and destruction programs.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to work in close partnership to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their delivery systems. Both countries agreed on their shared interest in maintaining and strengthening the effectiveness of the treaty-based WMD regimes including through efforts to ensure full compliance with obligations. They reaffirmed their support for the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) as a practical means for countries to cooperate to disrupt the flow of illicit WMD materials. The United States and Australia reaffirmed their commitment to the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. They noted that they looked forward to expanding activities related to the initiative and assisting partner nations to implement the Statement of Principles. They underscored the importance of all Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) parties working for outcomes from the 2010 NPT Review Conference that reinforce this vital Treaty. They strongly supported universal implementation of the Additional Protocol to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards agreements which would deliver substantial security benefits to all countries.

Australia and the United States agreed that continuing progress on nuclear arms reductions plays an important part in maintaining political support for the NPT. They reaffirmed their commitment to the nuclear disarmament goals of the NPT. They noted that as the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty had not entered into force, existing moratoriums on nuclear testing should be maintained.

The two countries remained deeply concerned by Iran's nuclear activities including its defiance of UN Security Council resolutions requiring Iran to suspend all uranium enrichment-related, reprocessing and heavy water-related activities and cooperate fully with the IAEA. They agreed to continue working together and with the international community in relevant fora to urge Iran to comply fully with its international obligations and to provide full transparency regarding its nuclear activities, especially past military involvement in its nuclear program. Both countries underlined the UN Security Council's important responsibilities in support of a diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear issue. They noted the recent limited progress in the IAEA's efforts in Iran but affirmed that the international community is not yet able to verify that Iran's nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes, given Iran's failure to declare all of its nuclear activities, disclose fully past military involvement in its nuclear program and permit IAEA verification that it has ceased nuclear activities.

Defence Relations

Australia and the United States highlighted their interest in further deepening bilateral defence cooperation.

Both sides took note of the U.S.-Australia Treaty on Defence Trade Cooperation signed in September 2007 and the good progress being made in concluding its implementing arrangements. They noted that once ratified, the Treaty will ease the barriers to how the two countries share defence technologies, thereby improving interoperability of their defence forces and enhancing the two nations' security.

Australia and the United States noted the good working-level relationship between both sides' military forces and improvements in joint training and interoperability. In that context, they welcomed the forthcoming Exercise Talisman Sabre 2009. They also welcomed closer cooperation in intelligence matters, as well as the emergence of new areas of cooperative endeavour such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Australia and the United States agreed to establish a joint investment program to develop a combined Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief capability, with both countries considering it important to enhance their ability to respond to contingencies in the region. They agreed to work on the details of the agreement over the coming year.

Both countries noted the significant benefit of working together in Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance and agreed to establish a combined team to pursue options for enhancing collaboration in the field.

Australia and the United States agreed to finalise negotiations on a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing to the continuation of the Joint Combined Training Capability, and noted the Joint Combined Training Capability's significance in reducing the cost and improving the quality of combined training.
Australia and the United States signed a Statement of Principles establishing a military satellite communications partnership. Both governments committed to taking forward the partnership in a manner which benefits the defence capabilities of the Australian Defence Forces and the U.S. military. Australia and the United States also agreed on principles for enhancing aspects of the intelligence relationship.

Next AUSMIN Meeting

The United States agreed to host the next AUSMIN meeting in 2009.