US tries to make nice with France after Australia sub snub

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Us Tries To Make Nice With France After Australia Sub Snub Us Tries To Make Nice With France After Australia Sub Snub
US EU Trade, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Matthew Lee AP Diplomatic Writer

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit France next week as the Biden administration tries to smooth over hurt feelings.

He will also be hoping to avoid potentially more lasting damage caused by the exclusion of America’s oldest ally from a new Indo-Pacific security initiative.

The US State Department said Mr Blinken will visit Paris starting on Monday for an international economic conference but highlighted that he will also meet with French officials to discuss the rupture in relations.


 

The administration has been scrambling to mend fences with France and the European Union more broadly since the announcement on September 15 of the Australia-US-UK agreement, known as AUKUS, which cancelled a multibillion-dollar Australian-France submarine deal.

All sides agree it will take time to repair those ties. The State Department said Mr Blinken’s talks will be aimed at “further strengthening the vital US-France relationship on a range of issues including security in the Indo-Pacific region”.

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“We recognise this will take time and it will take hard work,” said Karen Donfried, newly confirmed as the leading US diplomat for Europe.

Other matters to be discussed will include “the climate crisis, economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, the transatlantic relationship, and working with our allies and partners to address global challenges and opportunities”, the state department said.

On Thursday the White House announced that national security adviser Jake Sullivan had met the French ambassador to the US to try to restore trust between the countries. French officials have said AUKUS was a “stab in the back”.

Mr Sullivan met the French Ambassador on his return to Washington. Philippe Etienne had earlier been recalled to Paris by French President Emmanuel Macron in an unprecedented display of anger about the exclusion of France and the European Union from AUKUS. This pact is aimed at countering China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific.

Those discussions followed a phone call on September 22 between President Joe Biden and President Macron and a meeting the following day between Mr Blinken and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in New York during the annual UN General Assembly. Presidents Biden and Macron are due to meet in Europe later this month.

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The ostensible reason for Mr Blinken’s trip to France, which had been planned well before the AUKUS ruckus, is to co-chair a ministerial meeting of the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development on Tuesday and Wednesday about climate change and security.

John Kerry, the former Secretary of State and now the US climate envoy, will also attend the Paris talks. These will take place just weeks before the next UN-backed international conference on climate, in Glasgow, Scotland.

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