February 01, 2023 08:18
France and Australia have agreed to join forces to produce thousands of artillery shells to help Ukraine push Russian forces out of its country. Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles and Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong are in Europe for talks with key allies.
French and Australian officials say several thousand 155 millimeter artillery shells will be manufactured jointly by French arms supplier Nexter, while Australia will supply the gunpowder. The first supplies are expected to be delivered to Ukraine by the end of April.
The announcement was made Monday at a joint news conference in Paris by French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu and his Australian counterpart, Richard Marles.
Australia is the largest non-NATO contributor to Ukraine's war effort. It has supplied missiles and Bushmaster armored personnel carriers. A group of up to 70 Australian defense force personnel has also been stationed in Britain to help train Ukrainian troops.
Australia also has sweeping sanctions on Russia -- the most severe Canberra has ever imposed on a foreign government.
Marles told reporters Paris and Canberra are standing in solidarity with Ukraine. "We wanted to act together as a statement about how importantly Australia and France regard the support of Ukraine in the current conflict," he said. "Both of us have supported Ukraine separately in other ways, but we wanted to make it really clear that Australia and France do stand together in support of Ukraine in the face of this Russian aggression."
Also attending the media briefing in Paris were French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna and Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong.
While support for Ukraine's effort to repel the Russian invasion have dominated bilateral talks, Paris and Canberra have also sought to ease diplomatic tensions.
Ties between the countries took a serious hit in 2021 when Canberra abandoned a French submarine contract in favor of American nuclear submarines, as well as joining the trilateral security alliance with the United States and Britain known as AUKUS.
Marles and Wong are also due to hold talks this week with British government ministers.
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