France's Macron to make first visit to Mongolia

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France's Macron to make first visit to Mongolia
France's President Emmanuel Macron speaks to journalists in Hiroshima on May 21, 2023, during the G7 Leaders' Summit held in the city. Photo: Ludovic MARIN/AFP.

Emmanuel Macron arrives Sunday in Mongolia for a brief, symbolic visit, the first by a French president to the country nestled between China and Russia that is of growing strategic interest in the West.


The French head of state will stop off in the capital Ulaanbaatar after having taken part in the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan -- at which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was the star guest.

The leader of the war-torn country was there to address key Western allies, but also leaders of non-aligned nations like Brazil and India.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, France has stepped up its efforts to speak with countries who have not explicitly condemned it -- of which Mongolia is one.

In Ulaanbaatar, where he will only spend an evening, Macron will dine with President Khurelsukh Ukhnaa, the Elysee said.

The French president will also visit the museum of Genghis Khan, named for the 13th-century Mongol conqueror, which will lend part of its collection to the Nantes History Museum in western France for an exhibition scheduled for October.

Macron will then depart for Paris at the end of the evening.

"The fact that Mongolia will be on the route back allows us to make this historic first (visit) and gives it a special meaning," a source in the Elysee's entourage said.

"Mongolia is landlocked between Russia and China, but is also a country which has a liberal model of government," they said, adding it is trying to "diversify its partnerships in order to be more robust and able to deal with its large Russian and Chinese neighbours".

The French presidency is seeking to "loosen the constraint exerted on Russia's neighbours and open up to them the choice of their options", they added.


On the bilateral level, France has considered that there are "very significant possibilities for cooperation" with Mongolia, particularly in energy, with the country struggling to decarbonise its coal-dependent economy.

The vast north Asian country has been the subject of growing interest in recent years from the United States as part of a strategy to thwart the rise of China.

Eighty-six percent of Mongolia's total exports go to China, half of which is coal.

Mongolia has struggled with political instability since its first democratic constitution in 1992, when it emerged from the Soviet orbit.


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