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'We expected better from you': US top diplomat Blinken grilled on French TV

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken participates at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's Ministerial Council Meeting, on 5 October, 2021.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken participates at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's Ministerial Council Meeting, on 5 October, 2021. AP - Patrick Semansky

Three weeks after a submarine crisis threw Franco-American relations into freefall, French President Emmanuel Macron held talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken – who was later grilled on French television and told “we expected better from you”.

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America’s head of diplomacy was not scheduled to meet with Macron, who has avoided American officials since Australia unexpectedly scrapped a 56 billion euro French submarine contract in favour of an Indo-Pacific pact with the United States and Britain.

Speaking on France 2 Tuesday night, Blinken – who once lived in Paris and speaks fluent French – conceded that Washington “should have done better in terms of communication”.

France has described the secretive way in which the three-way alliance was formed as a “stab in the back”, at one point recalling its ambassadors from both Washington and Canberra.

Journalist Anne-Sophie Lapix emphasised France’s anger, incomprehension and sense of betrayal in their interview filmed at the OECD headquarters in Paris.

"You speak French. You are a francophile. We expected a better dialogue … especially with the change of administration, and especially with you.” 

A friend 'taken for granted'

Blinken struck a conciliatory tone, saying his one-on-one talks with both Macron and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian – who he said was “a personal friend” – were productive. 

"We sometimes tend to take for granted a relationship as important, as deep as the one between France and the United States," he conceded.

Blinken also acknowledged that France and the United States were still “in the early stages” of repairing their relationship, adding his visit was “by no means the end of that process”.

Going a step further, Blinken said the US wanted to see a deepening of communication and cooperation on issues concerning the Indo-Pacific, the Sahel and the Euro-Atlantic area. 

"There is now a very important opportunity following the work entrusted to us by our two presidents,” he said.

With US President Joe Biden and Macron due to meet later this month, Tuesday's talks appear to have defined areas of interest where both countries may find common ground.

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