France denies cancelling meeting with Swiss president over jet

Swiss President Guy Parmelin (pictured) was slated to hold talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in November. PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA (AFP) - Paris denied Swiss media reports on Sunday (Sept 19) that a long-planned meeting between the countries' presidents in Paris had been called off due to French anger about Bern's decision to purchase US, not French, fighter jets.

Two Swiss dailies, Le Matin Dimanche and SonntagsZeitung, reported that the French had pulled the plug on Swiss President and Economic Affairs Minister Guy Parmelin's talks with President Emmanuel Macron in November.

Citing unnamed diplomatic sources, both newspapers said that France had opted to drop the meeting due to anger over how the Swiss had conducted their negotiations in the run-up to their June decision to buy 36 Lockheed Martin F35A jets.

According to the sources, Paris charged that the Swiss Defence Ministry had continued negotiations with other manufacturers, including with French Rafale-maker Dassault, after the decision had already been reached to buy the US fighters.

Both the French government and Mr Parmelin's office at the Economic Affairs Ministry denied that the meeting had been officially cancelled, stressing that the scheduling had not been completed.

"It was never cancelled and especially not due to the reasons mentioned," the Elysee Palace in Paris said.

It explained that President Macron had agreed in principle at the start of the year to a meeting with his Swiss counterpart, and that the Swiss had proposed a date in November.

"We told them this summer that November would be complicated," the Elysee said, adding that the final date for the meeting "has not been set yet".

Mr Parmelin's office also insisted that since the scheduling had not been finalised, the change of plans was not considered "a cancellation of a confirmed appointment".

It also highlighted that the visit had not been billed as a state visit, but simply as "a working visit by the President".

The reports come as France is locked in a tense standoff with the United States and Australia over Canberra's decision to break a deal for French submarines in favour of American nuclear-powered vessels.

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