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Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-02-04

In a press conference with François Hollande in Paris, US Vice President Joe Biden applauded the French president for his “decisiveness” on France’s operation in Mali. The two also agreed on the need to increase pressure on Iran.

US Vice President Joe Biden on Monday held talks with French President François Hollande on what he called a “global agenda” of issues, including France's military intervention in Mali, economic matters, conflict in Syria, and Iran's nuclear ambitions.

At a press conference following their lunch, the two hailed the strength of the French-American alliance and expressed broad agreement on the spectrum of complex questions they discussed.

According to Douglas Herbert, FRANCE 24’s international affairs editor, Biden’s visit is significant because “it comes at a time when the US is shifting its emphasis to Asia” -- and away from Europe. Biden’s visit serves as a reminder that “Europe remains America’s oldest, closest ally, and the European-American relationship is sort of the bedrock of global relations”, Herbert noted.

More than ‘a diplomatic thank-you’ on Mali

With France carrying out a military intervention against Islamists in northern Mali, Hollande took the opportunity to “express to Barack Obama and the Americans our gratitude” for what he described as “political, material and logistical support”.

Biden reciprocated the sentiment, telling Hollande that he and Obama “applaud your decisiveness and the incredible competence and capability of your military forces”.

At the beginning of the French operation, analysts and pundits speculated about trans-Atlantic tension over an alleged US reluctance to get involved in any way with another foreign intervention. But according to Herbert, Biden and Hollande were genuine in their mutual acknowledgement and there is no evidence of France feeling miffed by the US refusal to put “boots on the ground” in Mali.

“This was not just a diplomatic thank-you,” Herbert assessed. “In the end, the US has thrown a lot of support behind France, in terms of intelligence and logistical aid. And Hollande has a sincere appreciation of the limitations of the possibilities of US intervention right now.”

US has ‘naked self-interest’ in European economic health

Biden and Hollande also addressed the economy, with the US vice president appearing especially keen to emphasise the stakes of European economic well-being for America.

“Europe is our largest economic partner, so the US has a profound interest in Europe’s success and in Europe securing the foundations of its monetary union,” Biden noted. “It is overwhelmingly in our naked self-interest.”

Biden took the opportunity to urge other European countries to “be more inclined to share our view….that there is nothing inconsistent with getting our long-term debt in control and generating economic growth”.

Aside from addressing their common positions on Syria and the need for action on climate change, Biden and Hollande spoke of their collaboration in dealing with Iran and its controversial nuclear programme – and vowed to intensify their efforts. “Despite all efforts, Iran is still refusing to be transparent,” Hollande stated. “Therefore we will pressure it right to the end to ensure the negotiations succeed.”

Biden concurred: “We share the view that there has been no real evidence of any movement by the Iranians…. I complimented the president and his predecessor [Nicolas Sarkozy] on the strong stance they have taken to show Iran that we mean business.”

Biden arrived in Paris from the Munich Security Conference in Germany, where he warned Iran that opportunities for diplomacy were increasingly limited.

The US vice president is scheduled to continue his European tour, meeting British Prime Minister David Cameron for talks in London later this week.

Date created : 2013-02-04


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