U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed Wednesday that their countries are ready to work together again, after a diplomatic drama surrounding a submarine deal that put the relationship at a historic low.
Harris met with Macron in the evening at the Elysee presidential palace, as part of a weeks-long effort by Washington to mend relations with France, America’s oldest ally.
Harris’ four-day trip to Paris comes after President Joe Biden told Macron the U.S. had been “clumsy” in handling the submarine issue, during a meeting in Rome, Italy on Oct. 29. Biden didn’t formally apologize to Macron, but conceded the U.S. should not have caught its oldest ally by surprise. The secretly negotiated U.S.-British submarine deal with Australia led to a prior deal with France being scrapped.
Macron on Wednesday said he had had “a very fruitful meeting” with Biden. “We do share the view that we are at the beginning of a new era and our cooperation is absolutely critical for this one,” he said.
Echoing the French president’s comments, Harris said: “I think we share this belief that we are at the beginning of a new era, which presents us with many challenges, but also many opportunities.”
“Building on the great conversation that you and President Biden had, I look forward to the next few days. We’ll work together and renew the focus that we’ve always had on a partnership,” she added.
She said that they were to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic, cooperation on space and climate change, amid other topics.
Earlier Wednesday, Harris paid her respects to Americans who died in the two world wars and are buried in a cemetery overlooking the Paris skyline. To the notes of Taps, Harris laid a wreath in their honor and met with U.S. military service members at the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial.
Among the more than 1,500 graves was that of Inez Crittenden, a World War I switchboard operator from Harris’ hometown of Oakland. Noting that was “one of the few jobs women could have” at the time, Harris said, “We’re very proud of her memory and her service.”
Crittenden died on Armistice Day — Nov. 11, 1918 — from pneumonia, likely caused by the flu pandemic of the era. Harris will attend Armistice Day commemorations in France on Thursday.