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Britain, France to sign defence treaties

British PM David Cameron Pakistan NewsLONDON: Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain and France would sign defence and security cooperation treaties at a summit between the two countries Tuesday.

“Tomorrow, the British and French governments will sign new defence and security cooperation treaties which will be laid before parliament in the usual way,” Cameron told the House of Commons in a statement.

He said the agreements would “deliver for our national interest while protecting our national sovereignty”.

Cameron said the pacts to be signed Tuesday would follow the same principle the government had stuck to at a meeting of European Union leaders last week, when Britain
pressed to keep the EU budget in line with reduced national budgets.

He summed this up saying: “Partnership – yes. But giving away sovereignty – no.”

The deal is a bid to allow two medium-sized powers to remain global players, officials and diplomats say, in the face of economic austerity.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who will attend the summit in London, said this year he was ready to remove “taboos” and consider “concrete projects” to work with Britain.

British Defence Secretary Liam Fox wrote in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper that at the summit “this relationship will be taken to a new level – the closest it has ever been.”

He said the aim was to strengthen the relationship “at all levels”, from joint training to the acquisition of equipment and technology and information sharing, but added: “We will maintain an autonomous capability.”

The treaties come against the backdrop of a defence review by Cameron’s coalition government published earlier this month, part of a deep programme of cuts in public spending to tackle a record budget deficit.

The document says Britain intended to remain a “global player” despite cuts of up to eight percent to the defence ministry’s budget, and describes France as “one of the UK’s main strategic partners”.

Britain and France together account for 50 percent of Europe’s operational capability, 45 percent of the continent’s defence budget and 70 percent of the research and development crucial to fight the wars of the future.

Paris and London have however been keen to reject any notion that their armed forces will become inter-dependent – especially in the highly sensitive area of nuclear weapons.
In the name of “improved inter-operability” cooperation, British and French pilots would train on each others’ aircraft carriers, the Charles de Gaulle and the future Queen Elizabeth, by 2016-2020.

Among other topics, officials have also mentioned the possibility of cooperating on the training of crews and the maintenance of Airbus A400M transport aircraft as well as synchronising nuclear submarine patrols. — AFP

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