U.S. top diplomat Blinken heads to France after submarine row

·2 min read
U.S. top diplomat Blinken heads to France after submarine row

By Simon Lewis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Paris next week after ties between the United States and France were strained when Australia scrapped a French submarine contract in favor of a pact with Washington and London last month.

Blinken visits Paris from Monday to Wednesday and will chair a meeting of ministers from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development as well as holding talks with French officials, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Friday.

Blinken will be joined by U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and other U.S. officials in Paris, Price said.

Blinken will then head to Mexico for security talks next Friday.

The United States, Australia and Britain on Sept. 15 announced a new security partnership for the Indo-Pacific region that would help Australia acquire U.S. nuclear-powered submarines and see it scrap its $40 billion deal to buy French-designed submarines. France reacted angrily to the loss of the deal, calling it a "stab in the back."

President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron spoke the following week and pledged to begin "in-depth consultations" on the two countries' relations.

Karen Donfried, the State Department's newly confirmed top official for European and Eurasian Affairs, said Washington recognized that the announcement of the new partnership "would have benefited from better and more open consultations among allies" and stressed the importance of trust to the U.S. alliance with France.

"The French have been very clear that they feel that trust has been disturbed," Donfried said on a briefing call with reporters.

"I agree that words are not sufficient to rebuild trust - that actions matter, deeds matter."

In Paris, Blinken will emphasize that the United States welcomes French and EU involvement in the Indo-Pacific and also discuss further security cooperation with France in Africa's Sahel region, as well as discussing the climate crisis and the response to the coronavirus pandemic, Donfried said.

(Reporting by Simon Lewis; additional reporting by Daphne Psaledakis, Editing by Giles Elgood and Angus MacSwan)