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French envoy meets senior White House official after return to US

Following Thursday’s meeting, Etienne posted a picture with Sullivan, saying the two discussed ways to develop a “common strategic agenda.”

Published: Updated:

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with France’s ambassador to the US on Thursday, saying that the meeting was to rebuild ties that had deteriorated in recent weeks after a new Indo-Pacific alliance between Washington and Australia excluded Paris.

“This meeting was in line with the shared commitment by President Biden and President Macron in their September 22 phone call to begin a process of in-depth consultations on a range of strategic matters, in order to create the conditions for ensuring confidence and propose concrete measures toward common objectives,” Sullivan’s office said in a statement.

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French envoy Philippe Etienne was pulled by President Emmanuel Macron on September 17 after Paris was outraged by a multibillion-dollar contract was canceled with Australia following the new alliance with the US and the United Kingdom.

The initial deal between Canberra and Paris would have seen France build diesel-powered submarines for Australia. Instead, a new alliance, AUKUS, was formed as part of a broader Indo-Pacific strategy to counter China’s growing influence.

The new deal will allow Australia to benefit from nuclear-powered submarines.

Sullivan met with Etienne on Thursday less than 24 hours after the latter was sent back to Washington.

For his part, Etienne tweeted that he was back “with a clear mandate following the conversation between our presidents, which has defined the conditions and the priorities for this re-engagement, with the goal to rebuild trust in our relationship—a process that will involve a great deal of work.”

The NSC said Sullivan welcomed Etienne’s plan to engage with officials to continue advancing their shared agenda.

Following Thursday’s meeting, Etienne posted a picture with Sullivan, saying the two discussed ways to develop a “common strategic agenda.”

Ties reached a new low after the deal blindsided France and the European Union. France went as far as calling the move a “stab in the back.”

French European and Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian addresses a press conference with his Hungarian counterpart after their meeting in Budapest on September 10, 2021. (AFP)
French European and Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian addresses a press conference with his Hungarian counterpart after their meeting in Budapest on September 10, 2021. (AFP)

Biden quickly moved to call Macron and reassure him of the importance of the alliance between the US and France.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also met with his French counterpart on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

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