France, UK to Hold Defense Summit in Early 2023: Macron

Britain and France will hold a summit in the first quarter of 2023 aimed at reinforcing their military and defense cooperation, French President Emmanuel Macron announced Wednesday.

Macron unveiled the summit while laying out his strategic defense priorities for France and Europe in the coming years, not least in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a growing international assertiveness of China.

“Our partnership with the United Kingdom must also be raised to another level,” Macron said onboard a helicopter carrier at the Mediterranean naval base at Toulon.

“I hope that we will actively resume our dialogue on operations, capacities, nuclear and hybrid areas and renew the ambitions of our two countries as friends and allies,” Macron said.

France is banking on a reset with Britain under its new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, following years of tense relations under Boris Johnson and later Liz Truss.

Macron also insisted on the need for deeper military cooperation with Germany, an “indispensable partner” for building up Europe’s military autonomy.

The two countries have agreed to work notably on next-generation fighter jets and tanks, but both projects have reportedly stalled on divergences over technical needs and how to share production.

“The success of the European project depends in large part, I believe, on the balance of our partnership,” Macron said.

“In that regard I hope that we can make decisive progress in the coming weeks.”

France also plans to revamp its partnerships and operations in Africa, where its forces have been trying to help local governments contain Islamist insurgencies in the Sahel region for the past decade.

“Over the coming months we must determine how to profoundly change our methods and our commitments alongside our African partners… which should lead to lighter and more integrated deployment with them,” he said.

French forces have faced growing hostility from some who see them as the ineffective occupying force of a former colonial power, and Macron pulled them out of Mali this year as relations soured with the country’s military rulers.

Around 3,000 French soldiers remain in Burkina Faso, Chad, and Niger, though Macron plans to end the decade-long Barkhane operation as part of the strategic overhaul.

“Our military support for African countries in the region will continue but based on new principles that we will have defined with them,” Macron said.

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