SYDNEY – Australia and NATO signed on Wednesday a new agreement to strengthen bilateral cooperation and to work together in new areas in the Indo-Pacific region.
The renewed partnership agreement was signed in Sydney by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Australian Defense Minister Linda Reynolds to develop new capabilities and improve exchange of information.
“The more unpredictable and challenging the security environment is, the more important is it that we stay together, work together, stand together, and protect a rules- based world order,” Stoltenberg, who is to conclude his four day visit to Oceania on Thursday, told the media.
“We are looking at new areas to work together in the Indo-Pacific,” Reynolds added.
The general secretary said that the partnership, which is renewed every two years, lays a general cooperation framework that would foster joint activities in areas such as cybersecurity and maritime security.
Australia has contributed to the NATO missions in Afghanistan with some 300 troops and training programs for military in Iraq.
The signing of the agreement comes at a time when the United States requested to form a coalition of allies in the Strait of Hormuz region where Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker two weeks ago.
Stoltenberg said that NATO was concerned over the situation in the Strait of Hormuz and Iran’s activities in the region, including its missile program and reiterated the commitment of the members of the alliance to stop Tehran from developing nuclear arms.
The defense minister said that Canberra was assessing the US’ request and the decision will be taken in the national and sovereign interest.
“We clearly do have a sovereign interest, because between 15% and 20% of our oil transits through the Strait of Hormuz. So, we’re not going to be rushed into a decision, but we are having a look at what our allies are doing and we will make a decision when we’ve got all the facts to hand,” Reynolds said.