A 21-gun salute greets Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron at Arlington Military Cemetery.

It is the ceremonial start of a four-day state visit that "is a recognition of the French President's unique leadership role on the European continent".

That's how John Kirby, the communications director of the National Security Council, put it to Macron's accompanying press in the White House.

Washington is not sparing in praise for the “longest-serving” and “most experienced” head of state of the G-7 countries.

The private dinner of the two couples in a restaurant in the American capital on Wednesday evening should also underline the desire for a warm relationship.

Michael Wiegel

Political correspondent based in Paris.

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Majid Sattar

Political correspondent for North America based in Washington.

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The host wants to let it rip a little.

When Joe and Jill Biden invite you to the state banquet in honor of the French presidential couple at the White House on Thursday evening, Jon Batiste will perform.

The musician and composer from Louisiana aims to embody the close cultural ties between America and its oldest ally - with his characteristic peppy ease.

"There's a deep and abiding affection that America has for France, and I think you'll see that in full," Kirby said.

France is "literally woven into the very fabric of our nation's founding".

Macron will visit New Orleans on Friday and thus walk on what was once French soil.

France had become the midwife of the United States in 1803 with the sale of what was then Louisiana, a territory stretching from Florida to Canada.

The choreography of the state banquet, which is usually organized by the First Lady's office, is quite political: On the one hand, it is the first state visit during Biden's tenure, which was due to the Covid pandemic, which the campaigning president somewhat prematurely declared over in late summer would have.

On the other hand, the two presidents got off to a somewhat bumpy start.

Controversial Aukus deal led to tensions

It has been somewhat forgotten given the world situation, but Macron briefly recalled his ambassador from Washington last fall after the White House announced a nuclear submarine deal with Australia.

The deal, made as part of the new Aukus alliance between Washington, London and Canberra, put an abrupt end to an already signed deal to sell French submarines to Australia.

It was the first time that Paris had ordered its ambassador back from Washington - a gesture that underscored the rift between the two states.

Biden later admitted that the way the anti-China security alliance was engineered was clumsy.

France is an "extremely valuable partner".