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Pompeo Visits France for Economic, Security Talks

By Cindy Saine, Nicolas Pinault November 16, 2020

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with French President Emmanuel Macron and other leaders Monday for economic and security talks.

The top U.S. diplomat also took part in a wreath-laying ceremony for terrorism victims in Paris.

Counterterrorism and global threats were among topics the State Department said Pompeo would be discussing Monday in his meetings with Macron and with Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Before the meeting, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said it's odd to be meeting his counterpart after the U.S. election outcome. He added, however, that a discussion was needed so the two countries could address many difficult topics such as the situation in Iraq or Iran, terrorism, troubles in the Middle East, and the relationship with China.

Macron's office said the meetings would be conducted "in complete transparency toward the team of President-elect Joe Biden."

From climate change to Iran, and the U.S policy in the Middle East, it has been a tense relationship between Trump and Macron, who was one of the first foreign leaders to congratulate President-elect Biden after his projected election victory.

Benjamin Haddad, the director of the Future Europe Initiative at the Atlantic Council research organization in Washington, said the Macron-Trump relationship has also been productive in some areas.

"We have seen disagreements between President Trump and President Macron, especially on global and multilateral issues: climate change was one, the U.S. unilateralism in the Middle East, or its dismissal of international organizations is clearly another one," he said. "With that being said, the bilateral relationship between the two countries, beyond the personal relationship between the two leaders, is very strong for counterterrorism or the military relationship. The relationship between France and the United States has almost never been stronger."

Many international observers worry the Trump administration might decide to rush a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan before Biden is due to be inaugurated in January. French diplomats have warned against this possibility. The war in Afghanistan is America's longest.

Those concerns have little chance to become reality in such a short period, said Jeffrey Hawkins, a former U.S. ambassador and associate researcher at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs.

"Frankly, the position of the Pentagon and U.S. military thus far, has been that it depends on how negotiation between the Taliban and the Afghan administration goes and conditions on the ground," Hawkins said. "Even with the relatively small number of troops compared to what we used to have in Afghanistan, it takes time to withdraw these troops if you want to do it responsibly. You cannot just do it overnight with the wave of the president's pen. It takes time to work out the logistics of that."

Pompeo is on a multi-nation tour that next takes him to Turkey to meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world's Greek Orthodox Christians.

He is also due to visit Georgia, and then Israel, where Pompeo will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and discuss U.S.-brokered agreements for Israel to normalize relations with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Diplomats said Bahrain's Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al-Zayani is set to join a three-way meeting with Pompeo and Netanyahu.

Other stops on Pompeo's tour include the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

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