Sunday, December 5

Macron and Biden to meet in person for the first time since the Australian submarine crisis

French President Emmanuel Macron and his American counterpart Joe Biden will meet in Rome ahead of the G20 summit on Friday as they seek to mend relations in the wake of the Australian submarine crisis.

The meeting between Biden and Macron at the French embassy is his first opportunity in person to mend the diplomatic gap opened last month with the announcement of a security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States in the Indo-Pacific.

Paris reacted angrily to the AUKUS partnership and the announcement that its main component will result in Canberra scrapping a multi-million dollar deal for French-designed submarines in favor of US-UK technology.

Washington was visibly surprised by the strong French reaction and criticism that it was not consulted despite its agreement with Australia and the fact that it is the only European country with territories in the region.

A disgruntled Macron waited a week before speaking to Joe Biden, a phone conversation that helped spark a détente. The two leaders then launched an “in-depth consultation process” to restore the hard-won trust between the two allies.

The goal of Friday’s tête-à-tête is “to show that we have been able to negotiate together important elements of cooperation” that “allow us to frame the Franco-American relationship for the future,” an adviser to the French president. said.

According to Pierre Morcos, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, “AUKUS will leave its mark” but “both countries seem eager to move forward and turn this diplomatic crisis into an opportunity to strengthen the bilateral partnership.” and rebalance transatlantic ties. “

Top talking points about defense and the Sahel

The Elysee hopes to secure concrete commitments from Washington on European defense and intervention in the Sahel.

“The main thing,” explained the French presidential office, is “to get everyone to agree that there is no contradiction between European defense and the Atlantic Alliance.”

“It is virtuous to be able to distribute the roles in such a way that the Europeans are, collectively, more capable, more committed and more robust players, and that the Americans are, for their part, as reliable allies as ever,” they say. additional.

Macron has been pushing for closer EU defense cooperation and the creation of a joint defense force operating alongside, but outside of NATO.

However, Macron’s prized “European sovereignty” arouses a certain distrust in several EU countries that depend on NATO forces, but also in the United States, where the defense industry seeks to defend its market share in the Old Continent. .

The French leader will also aim to secure greater support from the United States in the fight against jihadist groups in the Sahel.

“US support is essential” because “it allows us to operate in better conditions,” said an adviser to the French president.

Washington said in a joint statement issued after Biden-macron’s phone conversation in late September that it intends to “strengthen its support for counterterrorism operations,” but has so far not described how it plans to do so.

Biden and Pope to talk about COVID-19 and poverty

However, Biden’s first meeting of the day will be with Pope Francis.

“There is great agreement and agreement with the President and Pope Francis on a variety of issues: poverty, fighting the climate crisis, ending the COVID-19 pandemic,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki. . “These are all issues of great importance and impact that will be the centerpiece of what your discussion will be like when you meet.”

President Biden has long presented his Catholic faith as a cornerstone of his identity, writing in his 2007 memoir “Promises to Keep” that Catholicism gave him a sense “of himself, of family, of community, of the world in general”. He admits to being angry with God after the death of his first wife and young daughter in a car accident in 1972, but Biden said he never doubted the existence of God.

Following the papal meeting, Biden will meet separately on Friday with the hosts of the G20 summit: Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

Following this weekend’s G20 meeting, Biden will head to Glasgow, Scotland, for the COP26 global climate conference.

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