News World Abbott, Hollande meet in Paris

Abbott, Hollande meet in Paris

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott has rounded out his visit to France by holding wide-ranging talks with the nation’s President Francois Hollande in Paris.

The pair held their first official meeting at the Elysee Palace on Saturday before Mr Abbott departs for Canada and the US on Sunday morning.

Mr Hollande took the opportunity to express his nation’s “deep appreciation” for Australia’s sacrifices in defending France during two world wars, while a range of global and regional issues were covered.

Security was high on the agenda, with Mr Hollande briefing Mr Abbott on recent high-level diplomacy regarding the situation in Ukraine.

They discussed developments in the South China Sea and agreed on the importance of close intelligence and security co-operation in responding to the threat posed by fighters returning from Syria.

The pair also spoke about the G20 summit in November, when Mr Hollande will become the first French president to visit Australia.

Earlier on Saturday, Mr Abbott travelled to the Western Front, visiting World War I memorials at Villers-Bretonneux, Pozieres and Thiepval.

He spoke at a morning tea held at the historic Victoria School in Villers-Bretonneux, telling locals and officials he wanted to elevate the Western Front – where 46,000 Australians died – to the same cultural status as Anzac Cove in Turkey.

“No place on earth has been more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than these fields in France,” Mr Abbott said.

“Australians should be as familiar with the story of the Western Front as we are with Gallipoli.”

Mr Abbott will attend a Sunday Mass at Paris’ famed Notre Dame cathedral before boarding a flight to Ottawa.

There he will lead a delegation of Australian business people and meet Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper before travelling to the US.

Mr Abbott will meet with US President Barack Obama but the American leg of his tour has been shrouded in controversy with Labor blasting him for cancelling meetings with some top finance officials.

The prime minister has locked in meetings with key US economic policy makers including Reserve Bank governor Janet Yellen and US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

However, planned talks with International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde and World Bank president Jim Yong Kim remain in doubt due to a busy schedule, his advisors said.

Mr Abbott is also expected to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and up and coming politicians from both the Republicans and Democrats.