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Sunak and Macron to agree more security cooperation at Paris meeting

By Alistair Smout

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will agree closer defence and security ties with French President Emmanuel Macron when they meet on Friday, committing to greater collaboration in supporting Ukraine and in the Indo-Pacific region.

Sunak travels to Paris with several senior ministers for a wide-ranging summit which will also cover migration and energy, as the two countries seek to repair bilateral ties that suffered in the wake of Britain's decision to leave the European Union.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has served to strengthen those UK-French ties and, ahead of the meeting, Sunak's office said Britain and France would coordinate on the supply of weapons to Ukraine and the training of Ukrainian marines.

They will also discuss establishing a permanent European maritime presence in the Indo-Pacific, and the development of next-generation deep precision strike weaponry to bolster NATO capabilities.

"As we face new and unprecedented threats, it is vital that we fortify the structures of our alliance so we are ready to take on the challenges of the future. That is what we will do at the UK-France Summit," Sunak said in a statement.

Britain said that next year it would host a fourth meeting of the European Political Community - a grouping proposed by Macron to deepen European cooperation in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine a year ago.

Sunak also said he wished to tackle "the scourge of illegal migration" as he seeks to go further with France to stop small boats arriving on the south coast of England across the Channel.

In November, Britain and France signed an agreement worth 72.2 million euros ($74.5 million) to ramp up efforts to stop illegal migrants from making the perilous journey, and this week Britain unveiled a new law to tackle the issue.

"Certainly, we're going in there with ambition to agree to go further on stopping the boats making these dangerous crossings," Sunak's spokesperson said ahead of the trip.

On energy security, Sunak and Macron will discuss how they can secure more reliable and cheaper sources of energy.

EDF Energy, part of France's EDF, said on Thursday it will extend the lifetimes of its Hartlepool and Heysham 1 nuclear plants in Britain by two years to March 2026.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Daniel Wallis)