Sunak and Macron seek Indo-Pacific team-up at Paris summit

Sunak and Macron seek Indo-Pacific team-up at Paris summit
Опубликовано: Friday, 10 March 2023 02:59

UK and French leaders will talk challenge posed by China — but don’t expect a big migration agreement.

LONDON — Rishi Sunak and Emmanuel Macron will discuss combining British and French military resources in the Indo-Pacific region when the pair meet Friday.

At a bilateral summit in Paris — the first between a British prime minister and a French president in five years — the two leaders are expected to send a strong message of unity to the Kremlin and pledge continued support to Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

And No. 10 Downing Street said ahead of the meeting that the pair will talk about ways to ensure a permanent presence of like-minded European allies in the Indo-Pacific, where China is increasingly assertive.

This could include an agreement to place European warships permanently in the region by alternating the deployment of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales carriers and France’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier.

Sunak’s official spokesman told reporters that Europe’s security “is indivisible from Indo-Pacific security, so the U.K. will work together to increase our shared presence in the region, and coordinate our efforts to increase stability and respond to the challenge posed by China.”

In a statement issued on the eve of the summit, Sunak said the U.K. and France have a “privileged role as defenders of European and global security.”

“Our deep history, our proximity and our shared global outlook mean that a firm partnership between the U.K. and France is not just valuable, it is essential,” he said. “As we face new and unprecedented threats, it is vital that we fortify the structures of our alliances so we are ready to take on the challenges of the future.”

A bilateral meeting at the Élysée Palace will see the two leaders discuss ways to strengthen NATO; agree to further coordinate the supply of weapons to Ukraine and the training of Ukrainian marines; and review current and potential future joint defense projects. This is expected to include a deal to scope joint development of next-generation long-range missiles, which Downing Street said NATO needs in order to protect its members against Russia.

Migration will also feature in Friday’s summit, capping a week in which the British government unveiled a controversial new plan to tackle the arrival of undocumented migrants on small boats through the English Channel.

Although the summit will not yield a returns agreement with France — Paris insists this should be agreed at the EU level — the U.K. hopes Friday’s talks could pave the way for a negotiation with the European Commission on a deal allowing it to return undocumented migrants to the EU. French authorities have been able to prevent around 3,000 arrivals to the U.K. this year, but London said it wants to “go further” on ways to disrupt their attempts to cross the Channel, Sunak’s spokesman said.

Sunak will also confirm that the U.K. will host the fourth meeting of the nascent European Political Community in 2024, Downing Street said, in a move it’s pitching as further evidence of the recently-installed British leader’s commitment to European security.

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