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Blinken heads to France next week in latest effort to salve wounded French pride after sub spat


US tries to patch relations with France after row over AUKUS submarine deal: Sullivan welcomes ambassador to White House and Blinken and Kerry announce trip to Paris to mend ties

  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Biden’s climate czar John Kerry will fly to Paris next week, it was announced Friday.
  • It is part of the latest effort to restore shaky relations with France
  • It follows Australian decision to scrap deal with France for US sub-technology
  • The French ambassador announced that he had returned to Washington on Thursday
  • Philippe Etienne tweeted a photo of a visit to the White House with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan

Top US diplomats will fly to Paris next week in the latest attempt to restore relations with France, which were disrupted when Australia abandoned a French submarine contract in favor of a deal with Washington.

Paris withdrew its ambassador in a full-blown diplomatic spat last month when ministers accused President Biden of stabbing them in the back.

But Ambassador Philippe Etienne announced he had returned on Thursday, posting a photo of him meeting Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan at the White House.

Now Secretary of State Antony Blinken and John Kerry, the Presidential Special Envoy for Climate, are heading to Paris on Monday for a meeting of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Secretary Blinken will also meet with French colleagues to continue discussions on further strengthening the vital relationship between the US and France on a range of issues, including security in the Indo-Pacific region, the climate crisis, economic recovery of the COVID-19 pandemic, the transatlantic relationship and working with our allies and partners to address global challenges and opportunities,” said spokesman Ned Price, announcing the trip.

French Ambassador to the US Philippe Etienne announced on Thursday that he was back in the US after being recalled amid fury over the US nuclear submarine deal with Australia, which destroyed France’s own submarine deal. He tweeted a picture of himself in the White House during a meeting with Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser.

State Secretary Antony Blinken

Presidential Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and climate czar John Kerry will fly to Paris on Monday for a visit, including talks to restore confidence with France

America and the UK are set to help Australia build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines as part of an unprecedented alliance known as the AUKUS Pact to fight Chinese naval dominance and will likely feature the same design as this US submarine. Astute-class HMS Ambush (photo)

America and the UK are set to help Australia build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines as part of an unprecedented alliance known as the AUKUS Pact to fight Chinese naval dominance and will likely feature the same design as this US submarine. Astute-class HMS Ambush (photo)

France’s diplomatic grumbles were sparked when the United States, Australia and Britain announced on September 15 a security partnership for the Indo-Pacific region that would help Australia acquire US nuclear-powered submarines.

The AUKUS pact thwarted Australia’s $90 billion deal to buy French-made submarines.

The French sigh was immediate.

Diplomats canceled a gala dinner commemorating the 240th anniversary of the Battle of the Capes, when the French Navy fought the British Royal Navy during the Revolutionary War.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the deal as a “one-sided, brutal, unpredictable decision” like that of former President Trump.

US officials defended the pact, saying the French government had been warned in advance and that it was up to Australia to explain its decision to switch suppliers.

But that only created tension.

“We heard about it yesterday,” Florence Parly, the French armed forces minister, told RFI radio a day after the deal was announced.

A diplomatic source said the deal was a very closely guarded secret. Officials feared China would launch a “counter-message” offensive if Beijing found out.

Last week, Etienne said he was sad to have been recalled to France, but explained that his country’s deal with Australia was about more than the submarines.

It was ‘not just a contract; it was a cornerstone of our Indo-Pacific strategy presented by our president in Sydney – in Australia in 2018. So there is a lack of transparency,” he told NPR.

“There has been a breach of trust. There is unpredictability.’

At the time, Le Drian said: “This exceptional decision is justified by the exceptional seriousness of the announcements made on September 15 by Australia and the United States.”

Signs of a thaw emerged last week after a phone call between Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron, as the White House admitted its mistake.

“The two leaders agreed that the situation would have benefited from open consultation between allies on matters of strategic importance to France and our European partners,” the White House said.

“President Biden has conveyed his continued commitment in that regard.”

On Thursday, the White House confirmed that Biden’s national security adviser met Etienne after his return.

This meeting was in line with the shared commitment of President Biden and President Macron in their September 22 telephone conversation to begin a process of in-depth consultation on a range of strategic issues, to create the conditions for confidence building and concrete proposals. measures towards common goals,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne.


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