Macron to pitch greater EU role in Indo-Pacific after AUKUS crisis

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PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron will tell his European peers the AUKUS crisis could be an opportunity to make the case to the United States that the European Union can play a strategic role in the Indo-Pacific, French officials said on Monday.

Australia's decision to cancel a big submarine contract with France and go for U.S.-designed vessels instead as part of a new security alliance with Washington and Britain to counter China has riled France and caused tension between Western allies.

"We could turn a blind eye and act as if nothing had happened. We think that would be a mistake for all Europeans," an adviser to Macron told reporters. "There really is an opportunity here."

European Union countries can play a strategic role in the Indo-Pacific region with the United States in terms of trade, security, defence and defending freedom of navigation, the official said, without elaborating.

Macron will take part in an informal summit of EU leaders in Slovenia on Tuesday during which he will update his counterparts on his conversation with U.S. President Joe Biden last month after France briefly recalled its ambassador to Washington.

"We don't want to push Europeans into making a sort of binary choice between partnership with the U.S. or Europe turning inward," the Macron adviser said.

"The issue is how to create the conditions for a partnership in the best interests of Europeans, knowing the United States obviously remain our allies."

Macron has struggled to convince all EU member states to get on board with his push for European "strategic autonomy" in the field of defence, with many in eastern Europe especially seeing this as possibly weakening the transatlantic security alliance.

France, with overseas territories in the Pacific and Indian Ocean and 7,000 troops stationed there, considers itself an Indo-Pacific power and had struck arms and security deals with India and, until recently, Australia, to protect its interests.

(Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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