Blinken to visit France amid submarine deal tension

Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives for a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on September 14, 2021. Blinken was questioned about the Biden administration's handling of the U.S. withdraw from Afghanistan.
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Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit France next week amid tensions surrounding the United States’ submarine deal with the United Kingdom and Australia. 

Blinken will travel to Paris on Oct. 4 to chair the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Ministerial Council Meeting, assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried said in a news conference.

While there, Blinken will meet with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to discuss “cooperation on a range of issues,” Donfried said.

Donfried further said that the Blinken will discuss strengthening ties with France and the European Union ahead of France assuming the presidency of the European Council next year.

France reacted angrily last month when the U.S. announced the submarine deal, dubbed the AUKUS, which cancelled a separate multi-billion-dollar submarine deal that France forged with Australia in 2016.

Under the AUKUS, the U.S. and U.K. would help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines and cooperate on areas such as artificial intelligence and undersea capabilities.

Blinken and Le Drian have already met since the cancelled deal. Le Drian is expected to hold talks with Blinken on Oct. 5, Reuters reported.

President Biden also spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the deal, during which the leaders agreed that the situation “would have benefitted from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners.”

In response, France cancelled a planned gala in Washington, D.C. and recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia.

French Ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne said Thursday that he is back in the U.S. with a “clear mandate, and a “goal to rebuild trust in our relationship—a process that will involve a great deal of work.”

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