Emmanuel Macron during a meeting at the Elysee Palace, in June 2020. -

Francois Mori / POOL / AFP

A balancing act for the French president.

Emmanuel Macron, who was one of the first to congratulate Joe Biden, the future President of the United States, receives, this Monday, the head of American diplomacy Mike Pompeo, who has still not recognized the defeat of Donald Trump .

The meeting between the French president and the American secretary of state must take place at the Elysee Palace, but away from microphones.

Mike Pompeo is also due to meet with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian.

A farewell tour

Paris underlines in fact having accepted to receive Mike Pompeo at its own request, and "in full transparency with the team of President-elect Joe Biden", and while the French government wants a refounding of the transatlantic relationship on the occasion of the change administration.

President Macron was among the first to congratulate the Democrat on his election to the United States, and then to speak with him on the phone.

The outgoing Republican president, he still has not admitted defeat, more than a week after the announcement of the results.

Mike Pompeo himself, before taking off on a tour of Europe and the Middle East of which Paris is the first stop, refused to recognize the victory of Joe Biden.

"There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration," he said last week, before criticizing foreign leaders who have already made contact with the Democrat.

The atmosphere could therefore be tense behind closed doors in Parisian palaces for this first, and probably last, visit by Mike Pompeo to Paris.

Subjects of friction

And beyond these two parallel realities that parasitize American diplomacy, there is no lack of friction.

Jean-Yves Le Drian warned that he would oppose, in front of Mike Pompeo, an acceleration of the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, envisaged by Donald Trump before the official end of his mandate, on January 20.

The Iranian dossier which, along with the climate and trade, has contributed to a certain rupture between Washington and the Old Continent for four years, will also be on the table for the last time.

Donald Trump slammed the door in 2018 of the international agreement signed three years earlier with Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons, deeming it insufficient, and reinstated and then tightened sanctions against Tehran.

The Europeans are trying to save this deal, at least until Joe Biden takes office, who has promised to return to diplomacy.

But the Trump administration has promised to further strengthen the twin punitive measures - a strategy seen by some observers as the desire to build a "wall of sanctions" so high that it will be difficult for the Democrat to go back.

An administration in place until January 20

"Whatever the outcome of these elections" in the United States, "this administration is there at least until January 20", and "the campaign of maximum pressure" against Iran "is not going to stop in the next few months, ”a senior US official told reporters.

According to the State Department, discussions will also focus on “transatlantic unity,” often abused during the Trump era, as well as the fight against terrorism.

After spending the weekend in private with his wife Susan Pompeo in Paris, during what looks a lot like a farewell tour that does not say his name, the US Minister of Foreign Affairs is also due, Monday morning, to return a tribute to the victims of the recent attacks in France.

Mike Pompeo will then fly to Turkey, Georgia, Jerusalem and then to the Gulf.


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