Australia and France are at the heart of a new Indo-Pacific axis to promote peace and stability in the region, French President Emmanuel Macron says.
Mr Macron was hosted by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Sydney on Wednesday for talks on regional security and trade.
He said Australia and France had joint responsibility in the Pacific.
“I would very much like France, given it is the last European member of the EU being present in the Pacific after the Brexit … to be at the heart of this project,” Mr Macron said at a joint media conference with Mr Turnbull.
“This region is crucial for the stability of the world.”
Mr Turnbull described France as a “Pacific Ocean power”, which was well placed to work with Australia on infrastructure and humanitarian relief in the region.
“We share the vision of a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific and will work closely to realise it, whether it is closer co-operation on maritime activities, support for our friends in the Pacific through humanitarian and disaster relief, support for infrastructure in the region,” Mr Turnbull said.
Mr Macron will travel to New Caledonia on Thursday to underline his commitment to the region.
Asked whether they discussed China’s growing interest in the Pacific region, Mr Turnbull said further Chinese investment in the region was welcome.
But all players must be committed to maintaining the rules-based international order, whether they are “big fish, little fish or shrimps”.
Mr Macron said he had nothing against China, but there should be “balance” in the region.
“I think the Chinese rise is very good news for everybody,” he said.
“What is important is to preserve … necessary balances in the region and it’s important with this new context not to have any hegemony in the region.”
This made it all the more important for there to be partnerships such as that between Australia and France.
Meanwhile, the two leaders say the existing nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers remains the best option available.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week unveiled what he said was evidence of Tehran’s secret efforts in spite of a multilateral deal aimed at limiting its nuclear weapons program.
US President Donald Trump is considering whether to withdraw from a 2015 deal between Iran and six major powers aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear program.
Mr Turnbull said after a meeting with Mr Macron that the agreement was the “best option available”.
“We support its continuance,” the prime minister said.
Mr Macron – whose country negotiated and signed the deal – said it should be respected, however, talks needed to be broadened.
“Whatever the (Trump) decision will be, we will have to prepare such a broader negotiation … because I think nobody wants a war in the region, and nobody wants an escalation in terms of tension in the region,” he said.