News National Macron and Turnbull in historic Sydney meeting

Macron and Turnbull in historic Sydney meeting

Emmannuel Macron was in Sydney on Wednesday for talks with Malcolm Turnbull. Photo: AAP
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Emmanuel Macron has declared France and Australia part of an Indo-Pacific “axis” as the French President and Malcolm Turnbull send a message to Donald Trump on Iran.

Becoming only the second sitting French president to visit Australia, Mr Macron discussed trade, global security and climate change with Mr Turnbull during bilateral talks on Wednesday.

Standing side-by-side at a press conference in Sydney, both leaders paid tribute to a relationship they said was built on shared values, with Mr Turnbull describing France as a “Pacific power”.

Later, during a joint press conference, the charismatic French president provided a reminder he was working in his second language, thanking Mr Turnbull and his “delicious wife” for their warm welcome to Australia.

With the historic visit coming amid a backdrop of rising Chinese influence in the Pacific, Mr Macron declared France and Australia to be part of a new Indo-Pacific “axis”.

He said he hoped his country could be at the “heart” of this pact to promote peace and stability.

Amid the growing belief Mr Trump is set to cut America loose from the Iran nuclear deal, both leaders sent a message to the US President without addressing him directly.

Mr Turnbull described the deal as “the best option we have available and we support its continuance”.

Mr Macron said it was “a very important negotiation and is the best way to monitor the current nuclear activity of the Iranian government”. 

“That is why first we negotiated it, we signed it,” he said.  

“It’s good to respect it and that for me is a good beginning.” 

The message to Mr Trump on Iran comes as some nations grow increasingly concerned he will ditch the agreement on May 12, when the US must decide whether it reintroduces sanctions on Iran.

The nations held high-level talks in Sydney. Photo: AAP

On Wednesday morning, the two leaders laid a wreath at the Anzac memorial at Hyde Park in Sydney.

Mr Macron was scheduled to meet with members of the local French community, before flying to New Caledonia on Thursday.

The European country’s interests in the Pacific are focused on the island nation, 1000km east of Australia, which is a dependent territory of France.

Asked about China’s growing presence in the Pacific, both leaders declined to express concern or criticise Beijing.

But Mr Turnbull said all nations had to maintain the rules-based international order, whether they are “big fish, little fish or shrimps”.

The PM also emphasised Australia’s credentials tackling climate change, after Mr Macron urged Mr Turnbull to show the “power of conviction” at an event at the Sydney Opera House on Tuesday night.

Mr Macron arrived in Sydney at 6pm on Tuesday for his first visit to Australia, before having dinner with Mr Turnbull and his wife Lucy.

They attended an event at the Sydney Opera House, which was lit up in red, white and blue to mark the visit.

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Macron said France would also support continued negotiations on a free-trade deal between the EU and Australia, saying it was being “proactive and optimistic” about the possible treaty.

He said the two countries, alongside with New Zealand, would finance biodiversity projects in the Indo-Pacific, as well as increasing research to better understand and protect coral reefs.

They also committed to increased co-operation in the Indo-Pacific, through a strengthening of defence and business ties, and to bolster cyber-security partnerships to combat global terrorism.

He also expressed a desire to see more Australian students visit France.

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