Blinken Heading to Paris on a Fence-Mending Mission

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Paris next week, as the Biden administration continues with its efforts to heal a rift with the nation’s oldest ally.

During a visit from Monday to Wednesday, Mr. Blinken is set to meet French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who sharply criticized a new security partnership announced Sept. 15 among the U.S., U.K. and Australia in the Indo-Pacific.

The new partnership, called Aukus for Australia, U.K., U.S., includes the sharing of U.S. nuclear-powered submarine technology with Australia, and its formation coincided with the cancellation of a lucrative French-Australian submarine contract.

In advance of Mr. Blinken’s trip, Karen Donfried, the newly confirmed assistant secretary of state for European Affairs, said Friday that repairing ties “will take time and will take hard work, and it will need to be demonstrated not only in words, but also in deeds.”

“I don’t think there’s a silver bullet” to improve the relationship between the U.S. and France in the wake of the Aukus announcement, Ms. Donfried said.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has sharply criticized a new security partnership announced Sept. 15 among the U.S., U.K. and Australia in the Indo-Pacific.

Photo: attila kisbenedek/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

She said Mr. Blinken’s meetings in Paris will focus on strengthening the relationship between the two countries, and between the U.S. and the European Union. France assumes the EU council presidency in January.

France has complained in bitter terms that it wasn’t consulted about the new security partnership or asked to take part.

“We agree that the Sept. 15 announcement would have benefited from better and more open consultation among allies,” Ms. Donfried said, echoing comments by Mr. Blinken last week. “Our meetings in Paris are part of our commitment toward a process of in-depth consultations going forward.”

In a formal event scheduled during the visit, Mr. Blinken is set to chair a conference of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a Paris-based research body, focusing on rebuilding the global economy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and addressing climate change, officials said Friday.

The Biden administration has been heavily focused on repairing relations with France.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan met Thursday with French Ambassador Philippe Etienne, who has returned from Paris after being recalled for consultations. The meeting followed a Sept. 22 phone call between President Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron, during which the leaders pledged to mend relations.

Messrs. Blinken and Le Drian met in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last week, and the secretary met Mr. Etienne in Washington on Friday.

Mr. Etienne said Thursday that he had returned to Washington with a mandate to rebuild trust in the relationship, which he called “a process that will involve a great deal of work.”

State Department officials didn’t detail expected outcomes of the talks, but Ms. Donfried said the allies aim to deepen cooperation in several areas, such as improving Indo-Pacific, trans-Atlantic and European security, and countering terrorism in the Sahel.

During the OECD gathering, Mr. Blinken will be joined by John Kerry, the special presidential climate envoy, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers Cecilia Rouse, and Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Jose Fernandez.

Mr. Blinken also will visit Mexico City on Oct. 7 and 8 as part of a multiagency delegation for the U.S.-Mexico High Level Security Dialogue. The dialogue follows a High-Level Economic Dialogue between the two countries, held in Washington on Sept. 9.

Write to Courtney McBride at

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