Press conference – Prague | Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Minister for Women

Jan Livpasky, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Czech Republic: (A foreign language.)

Jan Lipavsky: Thank you Marise for visiting Prague.

CM: I invite you, Foreign Minister Payne, to say a few words.

Marise Payne: Thanks very much. It is a great pleasure to join you here. Jan, thank you so much for your hospitality today on my very first visit to Prague. I have to say at the start what an absolutely spectacularly beautiful city it is.

I am very honored to have had the opportunity to be there so soon after the inauguration of Prime Minister Fiala and his government, including the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Certainly, Australia and the Czech Republic have a very warm relationship, underpinned by shared values ​​of democracy, human rights, the rule of law and free and open markets.

Earlier today I had the opportunity, indeed the honour, to visit the grave here in Prague of the last Australian killed in Europe during the Second World War at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery. Private Lawrence Saywell was an escaped prisoner of war fighting with the Czech partisans and was killed on May 8, 1945, when he allegedly tried to negotiate a local truce.

His medals, including two Czech decorations, are housed in the iconic Australian War Memorial. His name is inscribed on the wall of the memorial. I was deeply moved this morning by the care and attention given to these graves, including those of unknown soldiers and airmen who rest here in Prague.

Our ties are therefore old and deep. But my visit to Prague today comes at a pivotal time in our delightful relationship, as strategic challenges from authoritarian states put pressure on stability and security in our two regions.

Today’s very warm talks provided an opportunity to discuss emerging threats to international security and our efforts to promote an open, sovereign, prosperous and resilient Indo-Pacific and Euro-Atlantic.

We had so much to discuss today that we had a very, very busy agenda, but we have identified some important areas where we can deepen bilateral cooperation on common strategic challenges, promote economic openness and trade diversification, opposing coercive economic practices and security threats in Europe and the Indo-Pacific.

It is significant, I think, that we are meeting in the context of dangerous Russian threats and aggression against Ukraine, and also as the Czech Republic prepares to assume the EU Presidency. It is more important than ever that we work together to advance our shared vision of an open, inclusive and rules-based global order in which sovereignty is respected, rights are protected and disputes are resolved through dialogue rather than by the conflict.

Australia stands with its close partners, including the EU and NATO, in ensuring that Russia pays a high price for any further aggression.

Australia and the Czech Republic will continue to focus their efforts within the UN and other multilateral organizations to uphold the integrity of international governance systems. And I particularly commend the Czech Republic’s leadership in international arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament, including your role on the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Of course, both of our countries are strong supporters of free trade and I particularly welcome and acknowledge the support you, Minister, have given today in advancing the Australia-Europe Free Trade Agreement. EU.

Now my message to the people of the Czech Republic is that two days ago, February 21, after the challenges of COVID-19, Australia reopened. We have opened our borders to all vaccinated visa holders. I look forward to welcoming tourists, business travellers, other visitors from the Czech Republic to Australia, and especially the Foreign Minister himself at the appropriate time. My visit today is the strongest signal of Australia’s appreciation of its friendship with the Czech Republic. Thanks very much.

Journalist: (A foreign language.)

Jan Lipavsky: (A foreign language.)

Marise Payne: Thank you. And if I may echo Jan’s observations on the economic relationship and in particular the opportunity we have to go further in advancing the Australia/EU FTA and we share a very strong commitment to make. But really, I think the visit I’m making shows how important our bilateral relationship is to Australia more broadly, and I think we’ve both spoken today about the breadth of our discussion.

If I may say also with regard to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, Australia today announced our action to impose sanctions on Russian individuals and banks, as well as a ban on trade in Donetsk and Luhansk . This is a first phase that we are coordinating closely with our partners, including the United States, the United Kingdom and European countries, to ensure that Russia’s aggression will have a real cost.

In Australia’s view, any suggestion that there is a legitimate basis for Russia’s actions is pure propaganda and disinformation. President Putin’s assertion of Russian soldiers acting as peacekeepers is indeed an obscene perversion of the noble and vital role that generations of peacekeepers have played across the world.

There is absolutely no justification for Russia’s unprovoked military actions. It is coercion, it is intimidation by an authoritarian power against a democratic neighbor, and it will not be accepted by responsible nations who want to preserve an open, stable and secure world.

Journalist, Czech Radio: (A foreign language.)

Marise Payne: Thank you. As I have indicated, we have taken a number of initial steps because Australia believes it is vital that we exact a heavy toll on Russia for its aggression against Ukraine.

And to be clear, as I believe my Prime Minister has also indicated, we will not hesitate to extend these sanctions. We already have a broader set of sanctions in store if Russia continues to escalate.

And we welcome steps taken by like-minded countries that want to see a stable international order, including Germany, which has suspended the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.

Jan Lipavsky: (A foreign language.)

Journalist: (A foreign language.)

Marise Payne: The individuals are the members of the Russian Security Council who provided advice to President Putin in these most recent actions. I don’t have the eight names with me, but that’s the constituent body.

Journalist: (A foreign language.)

Jan Lipavsky: (A foreign language.)

Marise Payne: Just briefly if I may. I also understand, as [indistinct] said, the point you’re making. But the alternative proposition is that there is no penalty, no cost for such illegal authoritarian behavior in violation of all aspects of international law, in violation of sovereignty and territorial integrity. And for countries that commit together and groupings like the EU that commit together, this is unacceptable. We therefore ultimately have to deal with the consequences for the international economic environment of the application of sanctions. But it is not acceptable that there is no cost and no sanction for such authoritarian aggression.

Jan Lipavsky: Thank you.


Berta D. Wells