Blinken Meetings With French Officials Yield No ‘Concrete Actions’ to Strengthen Ties

Blinken Meetings With French Officials Yield No ‘Concrete Actions’ to Strengthen Ties

11:53 - Relations between the two countries have soured following last month’s announcement of security pact among U.S., U.K. and Australia

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken continued his efforts to repair the relationship with the nation’s oldest ally, holding a series of meetings with French leaders that yielded promises to deepen cooperation, but no specific commitments.

Mr. Blinken met Tuesday with French President Emmanuel Macron and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, as well as Emmanuel Bonne, diplomatic adviser to Mr. Macron.

Relations between the U.S. and France soured last month when the U.S., U.K. and Australia announced a security pact under which Australia would receive coveted submarine nuclear propulsion technology, a deal that resulted in France losing business to supply submarines to the Pacific nation.

A senior State Department official said Tuesday the French and U.S. officials had reached a “common agreement that we have an opportunity now to, to deepen and strengthen the coordination across a range of issues, but a lot of hard work remains to be done in identifying what the concrete actions are going to be coming out of this.”

The official said the “very productive” talks focused on defining potential areas for cooperation, including the Indo-Pacific region, counterterrorism efforts in the Sahel region of northwest Africa, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Messrs. Blinken and Le Drian spoke privately for more than an hour Tuesday morning, before meeting with a larger group of advisers. The secretary spoke with Mr. Bonne, before spending about 30 minutes with Mr. Macron.

“France and the United States are continuing their coordination on challenges of common strategic interest, whether on EU-NATO cooperation, the Sahel, or the Indo-Pacific,” the Élysée Palace said.

The top U.S. diplomat is in Paris to chair a meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, but focused the first part of his visit on the bilateral relationship.

Mr. Blinken’s visit is meant as a precursor to an as-yet-unscheduled meeting between President Biden and Mr. Macron, establishing a set of “concrete deliverables” the presidents can direct their teams to execute, according to the State Department official.

The State Department official said the nations wouldn’t be announcing any agreements after Tuesday’s meetings, which are intended to continue progress “towards what [President Biden] might announce at the end of the month.”

The French president framed the visit as “an opportunity to deepen and strengthen cooperation and coordination from the Euro-Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific to Africa,” said the U.S. official.

France also proposed ways the two nations could strengthen security and counterterrorism cooperation, the State Department official said.

In a keynote address Tuesday, Mr. Blinken praised the OECD as a venue to address four key challenges facing the international community: the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, inequity within and among nations, and the need to craft rules for emerging technologies.