Tensions between the US and the EU have reached a breaking point, as the US compromises on travel.
Tensions between Western allies loomed large over the start of the UN summit week on Monday, with France enraged over a canceled mega-contract and US President Joe Biden addressing a European gripe by reducing Covid travel restrictions.
Biden will travel in New York on Monday for his first UN General Assembly, hoping to put an end to Donald Trump’s tumultuous presidency and rally allies in the face of a rising China.
He also wants to intensify efforts to combat the epidemic and climate change, as well as foster global unity on Afghanistan, where the Taliban quickly seized control after Biden withdrew US forces last month.
However, tensions with France have resurfaced when Australia rejected a multibillion-dollar submarine contract with France last week, opting instead for US nuclear submarines as part of a new three-way alliance with Washington and London.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has accused the US of betrayal and Australia of backstabbing, but no separate meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been set as of yet.
In an interview, Le Drian stated that “many European countries” have expressed worry to France, though he did not identify them, and that fellow EU power Germany has been openly cautious.
“This isn’t simply a French-Australian issue; it’s a breakdown of trust in alliances and each ally’s role in the Indo-Pacific strategy,” Le Drian told the publication Ouest France.
Blinken will meet with Le Drian in a group setting on Wednesday during negotiations on Iran, according to US officials, as part of last-ditch efforts to rescue a 2015 nuclear deal.
In response to a question regarding a bilateral meeting, senior State Department official Erica Barks-Ruggles stated that “the schedule will stay dynamic” and referred to France as “our longest friend and partner.”
Despite this, Blinken will meet with his new British colleague, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, and Biden will meet with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is in town to urge for climate action ahead of a UN summit in Glasgow in November.
In light of UN recommendations to decrease Covid exposure, French President Emmanuel Macron is among the leaders who will not attend in person.
Officials claimed Blinken, a native French speaker who grew up in Paris, tried to limit the damage in a chat with Philippe Etienne, the French ambassador in Washington, on Friday before being sent to Paris for talks as a protest.
Officials said Blinken also relayed worries from France and other allies about a travel ban placed on Europeans at the outset of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Brief News from Washington Newsday.