PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron met with US President Donald Trump’s top diplomat behind closed doors on Monday in a potentially uncomfortable meeting just nine days after congratulating President-elect Joe Biden on his electoral victory.
Macron’s office said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo first met French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian at the Elysee presidential palace and then met Macron himself.
Neither side has said much in advance about Pompeo’s low-key visit to Paris, the starting point for a seven-country tour of Europe and the Middle East.
The objectives of Pompeo’s three-day visit to Paris amid the pandemic did not seem clear. Macron’s office described Pompeo’s scheduled stop on Monday at the presidential Elysee Palace as a “courtesy” visit.
No press conference was scheduled, apparently ruling out the likelihood of journalists questioning Pompeo or Macron about their conflicting views of the US election outcome.
Officials from Pompeo’s team said French authorities told them no access to the press was possible due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. Paris is under a partial lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
Pompeo did not accept Trump’s electoral defeat. Macron spoke by phone last week with Biden to congratulate him.
Pompeo’s trip aims to bolster the priorities of the outgoing Trump administration.
In a tweet arriving in France on Saturday, he laid out the standard diplomatic bases for his talks in Paris, noting that France is “the oldest friend and ally” of the United States. “The strong relationship between our countries cannot be overstated,” he tweeted.
From Paris, Pompeo was to go to Turkey.
No meeting with Turkish officials was scheduled during the brief visit to Istanbul, said a senior State Department official who was not authorized to speak publicly about Pompeo’s agenda last week.
The judgment in Turkey will focus on promoting religious freedom and tackling religious persecution, which is a key priority for the US administration, the official said.
Pompeo will discuss religious matters with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, considered to be the “first among equals” in the Orthodox world, and with the Apostolic Nuncio in Turkey, Archbishop Paul Russell.
The trip will also include visits to Israeli settlements in the West Bank that were avoided by former secretaries of state.
Before the planned meetings with Macron and his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pompeo placed a bouquet of red, white and blue flowers on a memorial to the victims of terrorism in a Parisian monument, the Hôtel des Invalides.
The ceremony lasted about a minute.
Matthew Lee in Washington and John Leicester in Paris contributed to this report.