Frenchman Macron welcomes Trump envoy after congratulating Biden

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PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday held a closed-door and low-key meeting with US President Donald Trump’s top diplomat, a touchy tip around the fact that France has already recognized President-elect Joe Biden as the winner of the US elections . . The low-fanfare reception of Trump-loyal US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Presidential Elysee Palace was in itself an indication of how the Macron administration is already envisioning the Biden era.

No press conference was held, depriving journalists of the opportunity to ask Macron’s office, his Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian or Pompeo whether they had discussed their conflicting interpretations of the outcome of the US elections. Unusually, Le Drian met Pompeo at the Elysee Palace, rather than in his own office. Macron’s office described the Pompeo stop as a “courtesy” visit.

Pompeo tweeted a photo of himself wearing a Stars and Stripes face mask during the meeting with “my good friend” Le Drian and said they had an “important discussion”.

“There is no challenge we cannot meet when the US-France transatlantic relationship is strong,” he tweeted.

A statement from the U.S. State Department said Pompeo discussed a range of topics with Le Drian, including the NATO alliance, efforts to stabilize Libya and the Sahel region in Africa, the promotion of reforms and the fight against extremism in Lebanon, and what the press release describes as “our strong alliance to counter the malignant activity of the Chinese Communist Party in Europe.” The nature of the alleged activity has not been detailed. They also discussed human rights violations in China’s western Xinjiang region.

Yet it was unclear why Pompeo had come so far amid the pandemic and for so long, during a three-day stop in Paris that is largely on lockdown due to an outbreak of coronavirus cases, for such low visibility resulted.

Officials from the Pompeo team said French authorities told them no access to the press was possible due to concerns about the pandemic.

Pompeo appeared last week to question Trump’s electoral defeat, speaking instead of a “smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”

Last week, Macron spoke by phone to Biden to congratulate him.

Before meeting Macron and Le Drian, 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.

“The United States is alongside France. We mourn the victims, pray for their families, and condemn in the strongest terms these senseless attacks on innocent French citizens. Pompeo tweeted.

In an arrival tweet on Saturday, Pompeo outlined the standard diplomatic bases of his visit to Paris, noting that France is “the oldest friend and ally” of the United States.

From Paris, Pompeo went 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.

Later stops on the tour will include visits to Israeli settlements in the West Bank that were avoided by former state secretaries.

Matthew Lee in Washington and John Leicester in Paris contributed to this report

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