Biden, Macron talk Middle East and Ukraine during ceremonial state visit

Biden, Macron talk Middle East and Ukraine during ceremonial state visit
# 09 June 2024 04:36 (UTC +04:00)

Fresh from commemorating the 80th anniversary of D-Day, French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed U.S. President Joe Biden in Paris on Saturday for a state visit that included talks about the Middle East, Ukraine and trade.

The two countries will work harder to prevent a regional escalation from Israel's war with militant group Hamas in Gaza and focus on calming tensions between Israel and Hezbollah, Macron told reporters at the Elysee presidential palace, with Biden at his side.

"We are redoubling efforts together to avoid a regional explosion, particularly in Lebanon," Macron said. Hezbollah is an Iran-backed political movement and militia in Lebanon.

Both men welcomed the rescue by Israeli forces of four hostages held by Hamas since October. "We won't stop working until all the hostages come home and a ceasefire is reached," Biden said.

Biden has been a staunch supporter of Israel, which is pursuing Hamas after it attacked the country in October. But tens of thousands of Palestinian deaths have soured Biden's left-leaning political base on Israel, hurting him as he runs against Republican Donald Trump for re-election in November.

Biden and Macron, who spent the last few days celebrating D-Day veterans and extolling democratic values, did not take questions from reporters.

The Saturday visit began with a ceremony at the iconic Arc de Triomphe, where the leaders paid their respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier while a massive French flag hanging from the arch fluttered in the breeze above their heads.

Accompanied by their wives, Biden and Macron greeted army veterans. Then, escorted by French guards on horseback, they drove down the capital's renowned Avenue des Champs-Elysees, en route to the Elysee.

The day concluded with a dinner at the French presidential palace, where celebrities including Pharrell Williams and John McEnroe joined political and business leaders. Macron also welcomed 100-year-old World War Two veteran Harold Terrens and his 96-year-old bride, Jeanne Swerlin, as guests. The couple married earlier on Saturday.

Biden and Macron share a warm relationship despite past tensions over a submarine deal with Australia. Biden hosted Macron for a state visit at the White House in 2022.

They are aligned in their countries' support for Ukraine and opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and a joint "roadmap" released by the presidents included a commitment to back efforts to use frozen Russian assets to help Kyiv.

Tapping profits from Russian assets has drawn concerns from some countries, but a U.S. Treasury official said on Tuesday that the United States and its G7 partners were making progress.

Biden said if Putin succeeds in his war with Ukraine, he would not stop there.

"It’s about much more than Ukraine. All of Europe will be threatened, but we’re not going to let that happen," he said. "The United States is standing strong with Ukraine. We’re standing with our allies. And we’re standing with France."

Biden met with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Paris on Friday, apologizing for a months-long delay by the U.S. Congress in approving the latest military aid, and Zelenskiy addressed France's National Assembly.

Beyond Ukraine, trade issues between the two sides of the Atlantic loomed large, especially over the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act, which Biden signed into law in August 2022. European officials see it as a protectionist move that siphons off investments from EU companies.

Macron said he and Biden discussed the consequences of the IRA for the European economy again on Saturday. Despite his criticism of the IRA during his state visit to Washington in 2022, Macron and European allies have since won few concessions from Washington.

"We really wish to move towards a resynchronisation of our economies, between the United States of America and European economies, in terms of regulation and in terms of investment levels," Macron said.

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