Indo-Pacific a priority for France's EU presidency, foreign minister says

JAKARTA (REUTERS) – The Indo-Pacific region will be a priority for France when it takes the presidency of the European Union next year, its foreign minister said on Wednesday (Nov 24) during a visit to Indonesia.

Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France wants to be the “go-between” of Indo-Pacific and European countries and that strategic cooperation is one its priorities for the presidency of the EU bloc.

The visit comes as France goes on an offensive to boost its relationships in Asia following the loss of strategic deal with Australia in September.

“The heart of this commitment is our vision of an Indo-Pacific which is free and open, based on the rule of law, and a respect for the sovereignty of every state,” he told a news conference through an interpreter.

Mr Le Drian also said France had agreed to commit 500 million euros (S$767.47 million) worth of investment in energy transition projects in the Southeast Asian country. He did not provide details.

He was speaking with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi and earlier met the country’s defence minister.

Mr Le Drian was scheduled to meet President Joko Widodo later on Wednesday.

France has accused Australia of backstabbing after it opted for submarines built with US and British technology instead of that of France.

Australia excluded France when it embarked on a trilateral security alliance (Aukus) with Britain and the United States, a pact ostensibly aimed at checking China’s military rise in the region.

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