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Australian PM declines invitation to NATO summit

While there has been no formal explanation as of Tuesday morning, the decision was reportedly made so Mr Albanese could instead focus on domestic policies….reports Asian Lite News

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has turned down an invitation to meet with world leaders at the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) summit in Washington next week.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, Richard Marles, has confirmed he will attend the summit in place of the Prime Minister.

While there has been no formal explanation as of Tuesday morning, the decision was reportedly made so Mr Albanese could instead focus on domestic policies.

As a NATO partner, Australia was expected to attend the event as senior officials of the organisation have warned in recent months about a new regional threat.

Australia, South Korea, New Zealand and Japan were all officially invited to the 75th anniversary Washington Summit.

Delegates attend a ceremony for Finland’s accession to NATO at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, April 4, 2023. Finland on Tuesday formally became the 31st member state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), ending its military non-alignment in the fastest accession procedure in record time. (Xinhua/Zheng Huansong)

A spokesperson for the Deputy Prime Minister said: “attendance at the 75th NATO Summit underscores Australia’s commitment to advocate for our region’s strategic priorities.”

In response to the news, shadow foreign affairs minister Simon Birmingham condemned the refusal and argued Australia needs to attend important events on the international stage. 

“Unless Anthony Albanese has a very, very good reason not to be attending the NATO summit, then this is frankly a dereliction of duty by the Prime Minister,” Mr Birmingham said.

An insider source told the Sydney Morning Herald that NATO was disappointed by the Prime Minister’s apparent refusal to attend.

“It is somewhat disappointing because this gathering of leaders will hopefully send a message that the world’s leading democracies are united,” the anonymous diplomat in Brussels said.

Albanese has faced criticism in the past for excessive overseas travel and it has been suggested this factored into his decision not to attend the NATO summit. The Prime Minister has attended two NATO summits in the past, including in Vilnius, Lithuania in 2023.

Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is set to host talks Tuesday with Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov in a session the Pentagon says will show U.S. support for Ukraine’s security.

The talks come a week before the United States hosts a NATO summit where military support for Ukraine to help it defend against a Russian invasion is set to top the agenda.

“Secretary Austin and Minister Umerov will discuss the bilateral defense cooperation, regional security issues and ways to strengthen the defense partnership between the United States and Ukraine,” Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters Monday.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also is hosting talks Tuesday with Andriy Yermak, the chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The United States has been by far the biggest supporter of Ukraine in the more than two years since Russia launched its full-scale invasion.

U.S. military aid is again flowing to Ukrainian forces after stalling for several months amid political gridlock in the U.S. Congress.

Zelenskyy said in a video address late Monday that he expects this month to “bring even more strength to Ukraine, particularly in protecting our sky and achieving real security for our country.”

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