France, UK to reinforce air defence cooperation

1st August 2005, Comments 0 comments

SAINT-JEAN-DE-LUZ, France, July 30 (AFP) - The French and British defence ministers on Saturday stood united in the fight against terrorism, saying they would soon sign an agreement to reinforce their joint air defence capabilities.

SAINT-JEAN-DE-LUZ, France, July 30 (AFP) - The French and British defence ministers on Saturday stood united in the fight against terrorism, saying they would soon sign an agreement to reinforce their joint air defence capabilities.

"The two countries want to protect citizens from the continuous threat from terrorism on land, on the sea and in the air," British Defence Secretary John Reid said after talks with Michele Alliot-Marie in southwestern France.

"There is a very fruitful and productive relationship developing," he told a joint news conference in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Alliot-Marie's political stronghold.

To that end, Alliot-Marie said she and Reid had agreed to soon sign "a text that will allow us to reinforce the aerial protection of our territories".

A French official said the accord would include a "right to reciprocal aerial pursuit", meaning that a British military jet pursuing a plane deemed a threat could continue the chase over French territory, and vice-versa.

During their talks, Alliot-Marie and Reid also discussed plans for the joint construction of three aircraft carriers -- two by Britain and one by France -- in a bid to cut costs.

The ministers agreed to "push British and French manufacturers working on aircraft carriers to look for more synergies" that would facilitate cooperation, Alliot-Marie said.

Above all, the two ministers seemed determined to present a united front, even on thorny issues that have bitterly divided Paris and London in the past, such as Iraq.

"Everyone knows we had differences over Iraq in the past," Reid said.

"But all of us want to see the democratic process in Iraq continue to the extent that we, the Americans and others can remove our troops and allow the Iraqis to get on with governing their own country."

On the issue of a common European defence policy, the British secretary said he thought it was possible "to build up the European identity on defence without being a threat to other organizations like NATO or the United Nations".

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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