Blinken, Macron Seek to Move Past Submarine Dispute in Meeting
(Bloomberg) -- Secretary of State Antony Blinken aimed to close a rift with France that opened over a defense agreement with Australia and the U.K., promising in meetings with President Emmanuel Macron and other top leaders that the U.S. wants more cooperation with France in hotspots around the world.
Blinken and Macron met for 30-40 minutes to discuss deeper cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and the Sahel region of Africa, according to a senior State Department official who spoke with reporters on condition of anonymity. They were also laying the groundwork for a meeting between President Joe Biden and Macron that’s expected later this month, the official said.
The meetings with Macron, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and National Security Advisor Emmanuel Bonne are part of the administration’s effort to move on from the spat over the defense pact, which involved Australia scrapping a multibillion-dollar submarine contract with France. The deal led Macron to recall the country’s ambassador to Washington.
“I had important conversations in Paris with Ambassador Emmanuel Bonne and @EmmanuelMacron,” Blinken said in a tweet. “We discussed shared security interests related to Europe, the Sahel, and Afghanistan. We look forward to elevating our bilateral relationship.”
Blinken and top French officials didn’t discuss the defense deal or its fallout, but instead focused on using the disagreement as an opportunity to discuss common objectives, the official said. The meetings were cordial and amicable, the official said. One area of discussion was where the U.S. and France can work together on counter-terrorism, and the two sides will meet again in the coming weeks to discuss details.
In a sign of France’s lingering dissatisfaction, Blinken’s meeting with Macron wasn’t on his official schedule, indicating that the French leader didn’t commit to it until the last minute. Later, Macron’s office issued a statement saying the two countries “continue to coordinate on issues of common interest, including EU-NATO cooperation, the Sahel, and the Indo-Pacific region.”
The original reason for Blinken’s two-day trip to Paris was to attend a meeting of the Organization for Cooperation and Development in Europe, but the visit, which was planned months ago, has been overshadowed by the continued fallout from the submarine deal and France’s lingering sense of betrayal by the Biden administration.
In the weeks since, Biden and his team have sought to make up for what they’ve acknowledged were missteps around the announcement of the deal. Last week, Assistant Secretary of State Karen Donfried told reporters that the Sept. 15 agreement “would have benefited from better and more open consultation among allies.”
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