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US, French top diplomats shake hands amid submarine contract row

Published: Updated:

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken shook hands with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Wednesday in the highest-level contact between the allies since a crisis erupted last week over a submarine contract.

“They said hello to each other. That’s normal,” a French diplomatic source said.

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The two were attending a meeting at the United Nations on troubled Libya’s peace process and did not speak to each other at length, although they could hold a separate meeting later, the source said.

The encounter comes as President Joe Biden prepares to speak by telephone with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in a bid to calm the outrage in Paris.

France was livid after Australia canceled a giant contact for French conventional submarines and said it would pick US nuclear versions as it entered a new three-way alliance with Washington and London.

US officials said that Blinken, a fluent French speaker, spoke at length last week to Philippe Etienne, the French ambassador who has been recalled for consultations to Paris as a protest.

But Le Drian has said he had no meeting scheduled during the week of UN diplomacy with Blinken as he accused the United States of violating their friendship.

Read more:

‘Donnez-moi un break,’ UK’s Boris Johnson tells France after submarine deal

German FM calls US submarine actions ‘irritating,’ ‘disappointing’

France declares ‘crisis of trust’ with US after Australia submarine deal