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I wanted to talk to you this week about Franco-British cooperation on crisis management. I had the good fortune to go at the end of last week to the joint naval exercises held off Toulon, in the Mediterranean. This is all part of a process launched at the Lancaster House talks in 2010, where we agreed that we would build up both cooperation in defence equipment, but also in operations between our two armed forces.
These exercises called “Corsican Lion” were an amphibious landing operation, with the French and British navies working very closely together, practicing a capacity that we may need to use jointly at some point in the future, and all building up to having a fully operational capacity by the two armed forces by 2016.
I was very encouraged to be able to talk to some of the young sailors and commanders on both sides and to see how closely they can now work together.
Who knows where we might need such a capacity in the future? One possibility of course, would be in Africa. There we are in very close consultation between London and Paris, on what to do about the problem in Mali, where there is an increasing concern about the level of terrorist penetration in the North of the country, and the weakness of large parts of Mali. We now have a United Nations Security Council resolution, Britain and France are working very closely together on how we can support the government in Mali and the regional powers in Africa.
We had our new Prime Minister Special Representative in the region, Stephen O’Brien, here last week and later this week we will have Mark Simmonds, the FCO Minister with responsibility for Africa. And I’m sure Mark will be saying something for the website in the course of his visit.