France wants results by end of October in moves to mend US ties after Aukus pact

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (right) attends a meeting with French European and Foreign Affairs Minister in Paris on Oct 5, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (REUTERS) - France wants to see concrete results by the end of October on three issues that are up for negotiation with the United States as the two allies look to mend relations, the French foreign minister said after talks with his US counterpart.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Paris meeting senior French officials to rebuild ties after a security pact (Aukus) between Washington, Australia and Britain resulted in Australia scuttling a defence contract for French submarines, hitting the cornerstone of France's Indo-Pacific policy.

France has accused its allies of stabbing it in the back and even said President Joe Biden acted like his predecessor Donald Trump.

Speaking to French lawmakers, Le Drian said on Wednesday (Oct 6) he had held frank and substantive talks with Blinken.

"The crisis is serious, it is not resolved just because we have resumed dialogue, and it will last. To get out of it we will need acts rather than words," Le Drian told a parliamentary hearing.

Before leaving Paris, Blinken had described his talks, which included seeing President Emmanuel Macron, as "very positive, very productive" conversations.

French officials have emphasized that Aukus was a wake-up call for EU states and that they should respond to the recent crisis between Paris and Washington by ending the bloc's naivety when it comes to defending its interests and building its own military capacity within the Nato framework.

Le Drian said the two sides were working to get results by the end of October when Biden and Macron are due to meet at a Group of 20 leaders summit in Rome. They will also speak before then.

He said the talks would focus on three points raised in a joint communique between the two leaders: the strategic importance of French and European engagement in the Indo-Pacific region, the importance of a stronger, more capable European defence, and how Washington can reinforce its support for counter-terrorism operations in Africa's Sahel region conducted by European states.

When asked for more details on what Paris was seeking and whether there had been any concrete results so far on those issues, a French diplomatic source briefing reporters said it was still too early to say.

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