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Australia ramps up France dialogue

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Foreign Minister Marise Payne has been in numerous discussions with French officials in recent weeks to re-establish trust after the leaking of text messages between Australia’s prime minister and the president of France.

Labor senator Kimberly Kitching pushed foreign affairs officials and the foreign minister in a Senate estimates hearing on Wednesday about whether the bilateral relationship remains strained after texts between Prime Minister Scott Morison and Emmanuel Macron were leaked.

Senator Payne and secretary Kathryn Campbell said other heads of state have not directly expressed concerns about the leaking of the text messages.

The foreign minister and department officials said they first became aware of the leaked messages through the media and no one from the prime minister’s office discussed the leak with them.

Senator Kitching drew attention to Mr Macron’s comments in a French newspaper saying leaking a text message was a “crude and unconventional tactic” and asked whether it had weakened the bilateral relationship.

Ms Campbell said officials are “working very closely with our French counterparts to ensure that the bilateral relationship remains strong”.

“I am very focused on us moving forward and working with counterparts to ensure that both nations are able to ensure peace and prosperity particularly in the Indo-Pacific.”

Senator Payne is due to travel to Europe on Wednesday night for a Munich security conference and will also head to France for a meeting of Indo-Pacific foreign ministers, chaired by the French foreign minister.

Senator Payne said a one-on-one meeting with her French counterpart was not settled at this point in time.

– AAP

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