Morrison, Biden talk Afghanistan and ANZUS in long-awaited catch up

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Supplied
Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Supplied

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has underscored warm relations with US President Joe Biden, saying the American leader is demonstrating a "very strong focus" on the Indo Pacific region and regards Australia as a "bedrock partner."

Mr Morrison has had a catch up with President Biden on Friday - the first conversation between the two leaders since the presidential decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan.

In a conversation held to mark the anniversary of the 70th anniversary of the ANZUS treaty between the US, Australia and New Zealand, the two men also reaffirmed plans to meet in person in Washington in the next few months as part of the next "Quad" summit with the leaders of India and Japan.

"The Quad's agenda is incredibly important for the security of the Indo Pacific region," Mr Morrison said.

"I think it demonstrates a very strong focus from the United States on the Indo Pacific region.

"And Australia was referred to in our discussion today as a bedrock partner. A bedrock partner in the region."

The two nations are allies with shared values and interests, but the leaders are still establishing a personal relationship. This is the first conversation between the two since the fall of Kabul.

A triumphant Taliban spokesman has stated during a media interview the 41 Australian soldiers killed in the Afghanistan war "died in vain". Mr Morrison said Mr Biden was not of that view.

"The President was very grateful for Australia's 20 years of support and assistance, standing with our American partners and many others in those very difficult efforts over those 20 years in Afghanistan," he said.

"And he was very appreciative of it and all who served and all the families who served and especially the 41 Australians who fell in their service, so we thank him for that."

Mr Morrison said the two men discussed the next steps for the allies regarding the nation's fall to the Taliban.

Now that the airlifts are over, the rescue efforts are shifting to using official humanitarian channels.

Mr Morrison urged the Taliban to cooperate.

"The world is watching the Taliban," he told reporters.

"And we are expecting them to hold what they said to our partners and allies in the United States to facilitate that safe movement of their own people who are seeking to take up those humanitarian pathways."

Mr Morrison said he also passed on appreciation for US support for Australian evacuation operations, which resulted in the airlift of 4100 people, and condolences for the 13 US soldiers killed in the Islamic State-claimed attacks outside Kabul airport.

"I asked him to pass on our thanks to them and their families," he told reporters.

A short read-out from the White House advised President Biden expressed "appreciation for the close coordination with Australia on Afghanistan and affirmed plans for an in-person Quad Leaders Summit later this fall."

The Quad grouping of the US, India, Japan and Australia is expected to discuss defence and security concerns, COVID vaccine support programs and economic development initiatives.

Earlier this week, President Biden marked the 70th anniversary of the ANZUS treaty with a video message singing the alliance's praises and talking of "unsurpassed partnership and an easy mateship" with Australia.

During the Friday video call with the US leader, Mr Morrison said he also conveyed Australians' sympathies for the impact of Hurricane Ida and the New York floods.

This story Morrison and Biden hold Afghanistan talks, mark Australia-US alliance first appeared on The Canberra Times.


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