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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly Opening Remarks at Bilateral Meeting

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III:  Well, bonjour, and thank you for joining us today, Madam Minister.  It's very good to see you again so soon after our last meeting in Brussels, and I'm delighted to host you here at the Pentagon.  I've been looking forward to this for quite some time.

It's not lost on me that your visit falls between our prospective (sic) independence days, July 4th and July 14th.  It's an honor to have the chance to meet with our first ally at a time of year when we celebrate the democratic values that we share.  Our cooperation in NATO, the Sahel and the Middle East are a key to our long-standing partnership, which is grounded in common strategic interests, our shared understanding of the importance of diplomacy and a powerful interest in preserving the international rules-based order.

Today, as you well know, some of our competitors are working to undermine the stable and open order that we both support.  So in the Indo-Pacific in particular, France is an ideal partner for the United States as we work to bolster our shared interests in the region.  In Europe, we look forward to continuing to consult with France, as well as our other NATO allies and partners, as the Department of Defense moves forth with its strategic reviews and as we continue to confront an increasingly-aggressive Russia.

We'll also spend some time today discussing our cooperation in the Sahel, where France and coalition forces from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger work to bring peace and security to the region.  The United States is proud to support our French and African partners.

Closer to home, we'll also discuss implementing deliverables that we agreed upon at the NATO leaders summit and at -- and the U.S.-E.U. summit in June, and of course, we thank France for your contributions in Afghanistan since the very beginning of operations there in 2001.  We thank the French people and the French military who served bravely alongside us for the last 20 years.  And now it's time for us to end that war, and we appreciate the coordination we've had as together, we and our NATO allies have begun to transition to a new relationship with our Afghan partners.

I'm also looking forward to our -- to continuing our efforts in other areas and discussing new areas for potential cooperation, and to that end, I am especially pleased that later today, we'll be visiting USCYBERCOMMAND together, where the United States is working to develop our defenses and build up our resilience against adversaries in cyberspace.  I know you have also made cybersecurity a top priority, and that France has developed a cybersecurity strategy to mitigate risk and increase its capabilities.  Our countries have a strong shared interest in protecting our critical infrastructure and that of our allies, including cyber infrastructure, and that's a foundation for our future cooperation in the area of technological infrastructure more broadly.

And finally, I'm looking forward to signing the Special Operations Forces roadmap, which paves the way for enhanced cooperation between our Special Operations Forces, who have a long history of working together on a number of issues.

And so Madam Minister, I hope that your visit to Washington will be a memorable one.  I'm looking forward to our time together and to deepening the U.S.-France partnership on defense issues.

Merci beaucoup.


I've been very (inaudible), because I want first and foremost to thank you very much for your warm welcome.  I'm very delighted to continue the discussions we started in Brussels a -- a few weeks ago.  Our cooperation is already very strong and deep, especially in the field of operations, and we want to seize every opportunity to strengthen it.

Intelligence, space and cyber are also domains where we cooperate more and more.  I met, a few days ago, General Dickinson in Paris, and it was a -- a very good symbol of the relationship we are going to create more and more in the future.

I also want to thank you sincerely for your support in the Sahel.  Today, President Macron unveiled the broad outlines of the transformation of Operation Barkhane.  Your support will continue to be needed in the fight against terrorism and we are very grateful for it.  France and the United States are known to be the oldest allies.  These are not just pretty words; they reflect something real.  We are allies in words and deeds.

Thank you.