France’s Emmanuel Macron is forced to walk a diplomatic line on Monday when he hosts US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a strong defender of President Donald Trump, while the French president is simultaneously trying to build relations with President-elect Joe Biden.
Pompeo arrived in Paris on Saturday at the beginning of a trip with seven countries to American allies.
America’s top diplomat has been criticized for supporting the president in digging into his unwarranted allegations of electoral fraud.
“There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration,” a defiant Pompeo told reporters after announcing his trip last week.
However, world leaders have shown no doubt about who they see as the winner, with Macron one of the first to congratulate Biden and talk to him by phone.
Pompeo has been critical of such takeovers against Biden and told Fox News that such calls to Biden were not offensive if it “just said” hello “.
“But make no mistake about it, we have one president, one secretary of state, one national security team at a time,” he said.
The French president’s aides stressed that it was Pompeo who sought the meeting with Macron and that it was granted “in full transparency with President-elect Joe Biden’s team.”
As a sign of the concern generated by his visit, no press conferences are planned after his meeting with Macron and a separate meeting with Pompeo’s French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian.
A senior State Department official, asking if Pompeo would insist that allies believe Trump will remain in power, said the former CIA director has a “broad strategy” for pursuing US interests and that “he will remain Secretary of State.” .
Unlike some other EU leaders, Macron initially tried to win Trump, making him a guest of honor at the Bastille Day celebrations in Paris 2017 – a trip that included a dinner with his wife on the second floor of the Eiffel. Tower.
But analysts say the French leader does not have much to show for his efforts, with Trump pulling the United States out of the Paris climate deal in 2015 and the two leaders also locking horns on Iran, trading and taxing digital giants.
“The strong relationship between our countries can not be overestimated, and I look forward to my discussions here in Paris,” Pompeo tweeted shortly after his arrival on Saturday.
But there is plenty of room for friction.
Le Drian said on Friday that he would raise concerns for France – which has been hit by a number of jihadist attacks – over Trump’s plans to speed up the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We do not think it should happen,” Le Drian said in a television interview.
EU leaders are also still trying to salvage a hard-won international deal to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which Trump tore up early in his term.
A senior Trump administration official told the press that Washington’s policy of “maximum pressure” on historic enemy Iran “will not end in the coming months.”
Pompeo, whose visit has the hallmarks of a farewell trip that does not dare to say his name, had no official engagements in Paris over the weekend, which he spent with his wife Susan.
On Monday morning, he will celebrate the victims of the latest terrorist attacks in France, including teacher Samuel Paty who was beheaded over the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed and three people stabbed to death in a church in Nice.
From Paris he goes to Istanbul, where his planned trip has already caused friction.
Pompeo’s only announced meeting is with Bartholomew I in Constantinople – the spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox world – to discuss religious freedom, a key topic for evangelical Christian Pompeo.
In Jerusalem, Pompeo will see Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is a close partner of Trump but who has also congratulated Biden.
According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and the news site Axios, Pompeo will be the first secretary of state to visit one of Israel’s settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which is considered illegal by virtually all other countries, and also tour the Golan Heights, whose annexation of Israel was recognized by Trump .
Pompeo will also visit Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Georgia.
( Jowharwith AFP)