Australia PM to attend NATO summit
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Friday said he would attend “an important” NATO meeting in Madrid at the end of the month as the United States-led alliance looks to further strengthen its ties in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Australia, one of the largest non-NATO contributors to the West’s support for Ukraine, has been supplying aid and defence equipment and has banned exports of alumina and aluminium ores, including bauxite, to Russia.
“I’m going to NATO as a priority … to support the people of Ukraine standing up against this thuggish illegal behaviour of Russia,” Albanese said on Friday.
At the June 29-30 summit in Madrid, NATO leaders will discuss long-term reform of the alliance although differences remain over troop numbers and locations.
Following Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls “a special military operation”, NATO has boosted its presence in the Baltics.
Albanese, in power for less than a month, declined to confirm reports that he had received an invitation from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to visit Kyiv.
A report in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper said Zelenskiy included the invitation in a letter to Albanese to congratulate the prime minister on his election victory.
Russia on Thursday banned 121 Australian citizens from entering the country, accusing them of being part of a “Russophobic agenda”.
Australia has imposed sanctions on hundreds of Russian individuals and entities, including most of its banking sector and all bodies responsible for the country’s sovereign debt.
(Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Stephen Coates)