US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is heading to Paris, his first trip to France after establishing an expanded tripartite security partnership between Australia, Britain and the United States (AUKUS) that increased tensions between the transatlantic allies.
Experts said they expect Secretary Blinken, who has strong personal ties to France, to use the upcoming trip to improve US-France relations.
The top US diplomat will chair a meeting of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Ministerial Council scheduled for October 5-6 and will mark the organization’s 60th anniversary.
Secretary Blinken will have a bilateral meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Paris. France will hold the presidency of the Council of the European Union from 1 January to 30 June 2022.
“Secretary Blinken will also meet with his French counterparts to continue discussions on further strengthening of vital US-France relations on a range of issues including security in the Indo-Pacific region, the climate crisis, the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, transatlantic relations. “and work with our allies and partners to address global challenges and opportunities,” the State Department said in a statement Friday.
Tensions over the AUKUS deal
The administration of US President Joe Biden announced on September 15 a new security pact with Australia and Great Britain. Under the deal, Australia will receive at least eight nuclear-powered submarines to be built in the country using US technology. The deal came after Australia pulled out of a previous deal with France for oil submarines, angering Paris.
France withdrew its ambassadors to the US and Australia within two days of the announcement. Minister Le Drian stated that there is a “crisis of confidence” in the United States.
After a phone call between President Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron on September 22, aimed at easing tensions over the submarine deal, the two leaders decided to “open an in-depth consultation process” to secure “trust”. Macron also decided that French Ambassador Philippe Etienne should return to Washington next week.
On Thursday, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with Ambassador Etienne at the White House to “continue the progress of the common agenda,” ahead of President Biden meeting with Macron in Europe in late October. The two are scheduled to attend the G20 summit in Rome.
“We need to make sure that trust has not changed,” said Karen Donfried, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, who has just been confirmed in the post.
While the US-France relationship remains an important one for both parties, James Goldgeier at the Washington-based Brookings Institution said that
The Biden administration “seems a little surprised by the angry French reaction” to the AUKUS deal.
“It is good that the two presidents are looking for ways to move forward. There is no doubt that the Biden administration sees the Indo-Pacific as its main focus. “The policy of the United States towards regions like Europe is seen through this perspective,” Goldgeier told VOA.
The State Department said in a statement that the US delegation to the OECD ministerial meeting also includes President’s Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai./VOA
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