Secretary of State Antony Blinken is meeting with French officials in an effort to repair ties between the two nations after France slammed the United States for their nuclear submarine deal with Australia and the United Kingdom last month that cut France out.
Blinken arrived in Paris Monday night ahead of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Ministerial Council Meeting, where he gave the keynote address.
Shortly before the meeting, Blinken met with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who initially criticized the US and Australia for the new partnership in September and called it a “stab in the back.”
Photos of the meeting showed Blinken and Le Drain at a table with several other French officials wearing masks.
The Secretary of State later called the meeting “a productive discussion.”
“Enjoyed a productive discussion with French Foreign Minister @JY_LeDrian on addressing shared economic and development challenges, as well as regional issues in the Indo-Pacific, the Sahel, and Afghanistan,” he posted to Twitter.
During the meeting, Blinken and French officials reportedly discussed ways to re-establish and strengthen US-French relationships following last month’s debacle.
Blinken and Le Drain also discussed “the importance of holding the Taliban to its commitments” regarding the situation in Afghanistan, as well as “areas of cooperation and close coordination, including in the Indo-Pacific and the Sahel region,” per a statement from State Department.
“Both highlighted the importance of U.S.-EU cooperation during France’s upcoming presidency of the Council of the European Union, strengthening the NATO Alliance, U.S. support for European security, the climate crisis, and the need for success at COP26,” the statement added.
In September, President Biden announced the AUKUS initiative with the UK and Australia, which aims to strengthen cooperation and supply nuclear-powered submarines as China becomes a strategic threat.
France, which had been working on its own nuclear submarine program with Australia, felt snubbed by the partnership.
“It is really a stab in the back. We built a relationship of trust with Australia, and this trust was betrayed and I’m angry today, with a lot of bitterness, about this breach,” Le Drian told France Info radio at the time.
“This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr. Trump used to do,” Le Drian told France Info, referring to Biden’s predecessor. “I am angry and bitter. This isn’t done between allies.”
“The American choice to exclude a European ally and partner such as France from a structuring partnership with Australia, at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, whether in terms of our values or in terms of respect for multilateralism based on the rule of law, shows a lack of coherence that France can only note and regret,” the French embassy in DC said in a statement.
In retaliation, France pulled all their ambassadors from the US and Australia and canceled a gala in Washington D.C. set to take place at the French embassy.
Biden and the White House flew into damage control amid the fallout, boosting the US-France relationship and pointing to Australia for answers on why the Oceanic nation pulled out of their deal with France.
Biden did eventually speak with French President Emmanuel Macron and in a joint statement admitted to botching the AUKUS agreement.
“The two leaders agreed that the situation would have benefitted from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners. President Biden conveyed his ongoing commitment in that regard,” the statement read.
With Post Wires