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UN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue

The Hill logo The Hill 9/22/2021 Celine Castronuovo
a man wearing a suit and tie standing in front of a building: Secretary of State Antony Blinken leaves a closed-door briefing with members of the House regarding the situation in Afghanistan and the evacuation effort on Tuesday, August 24, 2021. © Greg Nash Secretary of State Antony Blinken leaves a closed-door briefing with members of the House regarding the situation in Afghanistan and the evacuation effort on Tuesday, August 24, 2021.

A meeting of leaders from the United States, France and other countries that had been scheduled to take place alongside the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly was canceled, with U.S. officials citing scheduling issues.

Top State Department officials told reporters Tuesday that the Wednesday meeting between the U.S., France, Germany and Britain would no longer be taking place, according to Reuters.

One official said, "I think the schedules got in the way of that [meeting] at the ministerial level."

"But a lot of these countries are going to see each other in other formats," the official added.

The State Department did not specifically say if the cancellation was tied in any way to the recent unusual diplomatic spat between the U.S. and France over a deal in which the U.S. and Britain would help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines, thereby undermining a deal that was in the works with France.

France had previously signed a bilateral deal with Australia in 2016 for submarines, and said that it was only notified of the new agreement involving the U.S. and the U.K. a few hours before it was unveiled to the public.

The Wednesday event would have been one of three planned meetings including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who on Monday accused President Biden of continuing former President Trump's policy of "unilateralism, unpredictability, brutality and not respecting your partner."

The Hill has reached out to the State Department for comment.

The U.S. submarine deal prompted France to cancel a planned gala in Washington, D.C., as well as recall its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia.

A senior Biden administration official told reporters Monday that Biden was hoping to hold a call with French President Emmanuel Macron "to talk about the way forward, to talk about his deep commitment to the U.S. alliance with France, an alliance that has fostered security, stability and prosperity around the world for decades."

Current and former French officials have continued to rail against the U.S. over the deal, with Gérard Araud, a former French ambassador to the U.S., telling The New Republic this week that Biden "is a big disappointment all over Europe."

However, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has called on the allies to focus "on the big picture" and not become divided over the dispute.

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