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POLITICS

Macron and Biden ‘agree on Covid and climate change’ after phone call

French President Emmanuel Macron and new US President Joe Biden are in agreement on climate change and how to fight coronavirus, the Elysee palace said on Sunday.

Macron and Biden 'agree on Covid and climate change' after phone call
Photo: AFP

The two leaders spoke for the first time since Biden's inauguration in a telephone call Sunday and also discussed “their willingness to act together for peace in the Near and Middle East, in particular on the Iranian nuclear issue,” the French presidency said.

The pair spoke for about an hour in English, according to members of Macron's team.

Earlier this week, Macron had lauded Biden's decision to return to the Paris climate accord.

 

Former US President Donald Trump formally pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord in November last year, claiming it “was designed to kill the American economy” rather than save the environment.

Describing France as America's “oldest ally,” a White House statement added that Biden had pledged close coordination with Paris on climate change, Covid-19 and the global economy.

It said Biden “stressed his commitment to bolstering the transatlantic relationship, including through NATO and the United States' partnership with the European Union.”

The call was the US leader's latest effort to mend relations with Europe after they were badly strained under his predecessor Trump.

READ ALSO 'A friend of France' – who is the fluent French-speaker representing the USA on the world stage?

The White House said Biden and Macron also discussed cooperation on China, the Middle East, Russia and the Sahel.

Macron had initially attempted to forge a close relationship with Trump, but the two later were frequently at odds over Syria, US tariffs and Trump's withdrawal from the Paris climate accord – which Biden moved to re-enter on his first day in office.

Biden spoke on Saturday with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and the two vowed to deepen cooperation and work together to tackle climate change, the prime minister's office said.

That call was Biden's first to a European leader, according to British newspapers.

His first call to any foreign leader went to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada on Friday, followed by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of Mexico.

Biden has vowed to return to a more traditional US diplomacy built around close ties to the two North American partners, Western Europe and Asian allies such as Japan and South Korea.

Europeans have responded with expressions of relief, tempered by some doubts that the US is as reliable a friend as it was in the past.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Council, said after Biden's inauguration Wednesday that that quadrennial ceremony had provided “resounding proof that, once again, after four long years, Europe has a friend in the White House.”

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POLITICS

French military bans Russians from chateau over Ukraine war

The French military has banned Russian nationals from visiting the Chateau de Vincennes, a medieval fortress, tourist attraction and military site on the edge of Paris, due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, officials told AFP.

French military bans Russians from chateau over Ukraine war

Once the residence of French kings and among Europe’s best-preserved monuments of its kind, the castle is for the most part open to the public, including for tours, concerts, theatre plays and other events.

But although best-known as a tourist attraction it is also technically a military site, housing part of the French armed forces’ historical archives, to which access is restricted.

The mounted Garde republicaine – a division of the French military – are also partially based at the chateaux.

It is therefore covered by a French ban on Russian nationals entering army territory that was issued after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Each year some 150,000 people visit the chateau, paying €9.50 per adult admission.

But on July 28th, two Russian women were refused access.

“A guard at the metal detector asked to see my passport,” said one of the women, 31, who works as a journalist and has been in France for five months, having left Russia “because of the war”.

On inspecting the document, the guard informed her she couldn’t pass, the woman, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

Another guard also denied her entry and gave as the reason “because you are Russian”, she said, adding she couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

Contacted by AFP, the defence ministry confirmed late Monday that it had, indeed, “restricted access to military installations to Russian nationals” because of the invasion.

But after media coverage and social media comment, the ministry contacted AFP on Tuesday to say that the guards had in fact “indiscriminately applied a rule established in February concerning all military installations”.

“This rule cannot be applied in the same way for strategic sites and for sites accessible to the public, such as museums,” a spokesman said.

The ministry said security staff would now be informed of the distinction “to avoid any further incidents of this kind”.

Russian journalists could, however, apply for an exemption, a ministry official added.

The majority of France’s most popular tourist sites have no military function and would not be affected by the ban. 

Since Moscow sent troops into Ukraine in February, France has taken in some 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, government figures show.

About 73,500 Russian immigrants lived in France in 2021, according to the national statistics office Insee.

There has been debate within the European Union about whether further limits should be placed on Russians visiting the bloc for tourism or personal reasons.

Russia’s neighbour Finland last week issued a plan to limit tourist visas  for Russians but also emphasised the need for an EU-level decision on the matter.

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