Foreign Minister Blinken in France for the Revitalization of the Transatlantic Alliance

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Paris for meetings with French officials in a bid to improve relations between the two allies, following a dispute over the security partnership between the US, UK and Australia.

Blinken’s schedule this Tuesday (5/10) includes talks with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and French National Security Adviser Emmanuel Bonne.

After that, the top US diplomat will chair and address the Council of Ministers Meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

“Minister Blinken will also meet with his French counterparts to continue discussions on further strengthening vital US-French relations on a range of issues including security in the Indo-Pacific region, the climate crisis, economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, transatlantic relations and work work with allies and partners to address global challenges and opportunities,” the State Department said in a statement Friday.

Tensions over AUKUS

The administration of US President Joe Biden on September 15 announced a new security pact with Australia and Britain. Under the agreement, Australia will receive at least eight nuclear-powered submarines built at home using American technology. The deal comes after Australia withdrew from an earlier deal with France for the manufacture of diesel-electric submarines, angering Paris.

France recalled its ambassadors to the US and Australia within two days of the announcement. Le Drian called there a “crisis of confidence” in the US.

After a telephone conversation between President Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron on September 22 seeking to defuse tensions over the submarine deal, the two leaders decided to “open a process of in-depth consultation” to ensure “mutual trust.” Macron also decided that French Ambassador Philippe Etienne would return to Washington the following week.

Last Thursday, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with Etienne at the White House to “continue to advance the shared agenda,” ahead of Biden’s meeting with Macron in Europe in late October. Both were scheduled to attend the G-20 summit in Rome at that time.

“We need to make sure there is mutual trust,” Karen Donfried, the newly appointed assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, said in a telephone briefing on Friday.

While the US-France relationship remains important to each side, James Goldgeier, senior visiting fellow at the Brookings research institute in Washington, said the Biden administration “seems to be taken aback by France’s angry reaction” to the AUKUS deal.

“It’s great 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. US policy towards a region like Europe is seen through that lens,” Goldgeier told Mouab.

The State Department said in a statement that the US delegation to the OECD ministerial meeting this October also includes the President’s Special Envoy on Climate Affairs John Kerry and the chief US Trade Representative Katherine Tai. [uh/ab]

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