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Indo-Pacific a priority for French EU presidency, says foreign minister

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

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

The visit comes as France is embarking on an offensive to boost its relations in Asia following the loss of the strategic agreement with Australia in September.

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“The heart of this commitment is our vision for 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.

Le Drian also said France had agreed to make 500m euros ($ 562.10m) in investment in energy transition projects in the Southeast Asian country. He gave no details.

He was talking to his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi and had previously met with the country’s defense minister.

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

France has accused Australia of stabbing it after choosing submarines built with American and British technology instead of that of France.

Australia ousted France when it entered into a tripartite security alliance (AUKUS) with Britain and the United States, a pact ostensibly aimed at controlling China’s military rise in the region.

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Reporting by Stanley Widianto; Edited by Martin Petty

Our standards: Principles of Trust by Thomson Reuters.

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