France economy

Blinken is told France “expects better” in grueling TV appearance as he works to mend American-French divide in Paris

A senior State Department official described Blinken’s official meetings as “very productive” and forward-looking, but the United States and the French agreed that work remained to mend the shaken relationship. the Biden administration’s new defense partnership with the UK and Australia.

The bitterness over this deal and the treatment of the French by the Biden administration punctuated an appearance by Blinken on France 2 TV, where the interviewer raised the anger, misunderstanding and sense of betrayal of France – then became personal.

“We expected better, especially with the change of administration, and especially with you,” journalist Anne-Sophie Lapix told Blinken. “You speak French. You are a Francophile. We expected better dialogue.”

Blinken, who spoke French throughout the interview, said he understood the feeling of betrayal and that Americans are realizing that they “could have – we should have – done better, in terms of communication” . And he admitted that, “above all, we sometimes tend to take for granted a relationship as important and deep as that between France and the United States.”

The senior State Department official admitted that when it comes to mending the relationship, this trip is by no means “the end of the process, we’re still in the early stages of doing it.” The official called Blinken’s Tuesday meetings with French officials “serious.”

“There has not been much new litigation” over the events that led to the announcement of the security agreement between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia which enraged the French and him cost billions in a defense contract he planned to sell to Australia, the official mentioned. Discussions focused on “using it as an opportunity” to develop and implement joint efforts on issues that the council grants.

Preparation of the meeting of presidents

Blinken is in Paris until Wednesday for meetings of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, but the most intense American diplomatic energy is focused on mending the rift with France. Officials there denounced the failure of the Biden administration to tell them about the “AUUKUS” alliance or to include them as “brutal” and more reminiscent of the Trump administration than the vision offered by President Joe Biden to restore the trust and cooperation with European allies.

There were no announcements of new Franco-American efforts after Tuesday’s meetings. The aim was to define areas where counties can take action together ahead of a meeting between Biden and Macron later this month, the official said.

Blinken focused on “exploring some details of — where exactly are there common interests and how can we operationalize them or develop plans – to prepare the presidents when they meet. later this month, at the end of this month, “the official said, adding that they would like to have” really concrete “deliverables when Macron and Biden meet.

Macron was not initially in Blinken’s program, so the fact that the French president met Blinken was seen as a positive signal by the United States, the official said.

Without going into details, the official said Blinken and his counterparts discussed a range of areas where US and French interests overlap – including the fight against terrorism in the Sahel and efforts in the Indo -Peaceful. The French offered “a number of ideas on ways to strengthen security cooperation and CT cooperation,” the official said when asked about discussions surrounding the position of US forces in Africa.

In his television interview on France 2, Blinken promised closer consultation on the main national security issues facing France, such as the stability of the Sahel region in Africa and the renewal of NATO.

Hold the bag

“There is now a very important opportunity (…) to deepen this cooperation and coordination, whether in the Sahel, the Indo-Pacific or on transatlantic issues,” said Blinken.

Lapix said France sometimes felt it had to “hold the bag” on key transatlantic security concerns as the United States pivoted to the Indo-Pacific.

“If we define engagement as the number of troops you have in such-and-such a place, that’s a question,” Blinken parried. “If we define engagement by what your diplomatic, political and economic engagement is with your allies and partners, then I think we’re very engaged.”

Blinken and French officials have not discussed France working on any of the AU-UK-US partnership projects, but the official said there may be places for French and European “opportunities” as they consult with the United States and other allies on the Indo-Pacific. strategies.

Blinken and Le Drian also agreed to “stay in close contact on Afghanistan and discussed the importance of keeping the Taliban to their commitments,” the State Department said after the meeting.

CNN’s Hannah Ritchie in London and Dalal Mawad in Paris contributed to this report