France-US RELATIONS

US top diplomat Blinken in Paris to heal rift with France over submarine feud

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) attends a meeting with French European and Foreign Affairs Minister in Paris on October 5, 2021.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) attends a meeting with French European and Foreign Affairs Minister in Paris on October 5, 2021. AFP - LEWIS JOLY

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Paris Tuesday where he told journalists he would discuss rebuilding French trust in the United States following a major row over the cancellation over of a lucrative submarine defence contract.

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Paris was left out in the cold last month after Australia scrapped its 56 billion euro submarine deal with France in favour of a new Indo-Pacific security pact between the US and Britain.

The French government said it had been “stabbed in the back” by the loss of the contract and the secret talks leading up to its cancellation – adding it would take time for the wounds to heal.

France briefly withdrew its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra over the affair.

Return of trust?

Blinken is to hold talks with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian during his two-day visit. Asked how he would reassure France the US could once again become a trusted ally, Blinken said: "We'll have a chance to talk later."

However a spokeswoman for Le Drian said the meeting was merely a chance to “identify stages that may allow a return of confidence between our two countries”.

No official meeting has been scheduled between French President Emmanuel Macron and Blinken, the US’s most senior diplomat.

Instead he is due to meet Macron’s diplomatic advisor Emmanuel Bonne.

Blinken’s trip to Paris was arranged before the submarines row erupted, and was due to focus on a meeting of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

(With wires)

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