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Australia and France have marked another major step forward in the recovery from the AUKUS diplomatic furore with a new agreement for greater military cooperation in the Pacific.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong and her French counterpart, Catherine Colonna, today announced an agreement for reciprocal access to military facilities in the region, where France has a number of foreign territories.

The agreement, details of which were still being finalised between both countries’ defence ministers at a summit in New Caledonia, is the latest easing of tensions created by Australia’s decision to join the AUKUS pact and pull out of a multibillion-dollar submarine deal with France.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong and her French counterpart, Catherine Colonna, today announced an agreement for reciprocal access to military facilities (Alex Ellinghausen)

French President Emmanuel Macron accused former Australian prime minister Scott Morrison of lying about the deal and withdrew ambassadors from Canberra, but the relationship has been on a firmer footing after a series of meetings between the president and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Wong and Colonna were keen to talk up the importance of the latest progress.

“When your prime minister visited Paris – a few weeks, by the way, after taking office – and our task was to rebuild, reset, use whatever word is appropriate, I don’t know which one you prefer,” Colonna said today, as Wong suggested “renew” was the best option.

“Let’s renew then, the kind of relationship we had before September 2021.

“But further than that, to really build a new one.”

On top of defence and security, the “roadmap” for Franco-Australian cooperation also includes plans regarding, education, culture and climate change resilience and action. (Alex Ellinghausen)

On top of defence and security, the “roadmap” for Franco-Australian cooperation also includes plans regarding education, culture, and climate change resilience and action.

Colonna said that would include an Indo-Pacific studies program unlike anything else France had developed.

“The Indo-Pacific is a top priority for France. We are a nation of the Pacific. We are determined to step up, beef up our cooperation with partners in the region, including, of course, with the number one partner for us in the region, ie Australia,” she said.

“And we need to do so in order to cope with global challenges, and also to preserve the rules-based order that we cherish and can see sometimes shaken.”

Wong echoed the importance of France in the region.

Wong and Colonna were keen to talk up the importance of the latest progress. (Alex Ellinghausen)

“France is a power in the Pacific. It’s a power in Europe and it’s a multilateral power,” she said.

“And this is a very important partnership to Australia. We have an enduring, contemporary and forward-looking partnership and we are united in addressing shared challenges.”

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met with defence chiefs from Australia and the UK at the US military’s defence technology hub in Silicon Valley on Friday to forge a new agreement to increase technology cooperation and information sharing.

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