Biden Meets With Pope and Macron: News Updates From Rome


ImagePresident Biden and President Emmanuel Macron of France meeting on Friday at the French Embassy in Rome, Italy.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

With his domestic agenda in limbo, President Biden sought better results on the foreign front on Friday, beginning a five-day diplomatic marathon with a series of meetings that addressed personal and political priorities.

After a weekslong rift with America’s oldest ally, Mr. Biden sought to smooth over relations with France after a contentious submarine deal and build stronger ties with Italy, whose prime minister is emerging as heir apparent to Angela Merkel as the political leader of Europe.

And he received a positive review from Pope Francis, who he said had called him a “good Catholic” who should continue to receive communion — an apparent repudiation of an effort by some bishops in the United States to deny Mr. Biden the sacrament over his abortion views.

Mr. Biden’s next stop will be the Group of 20 summit, where leaders of the world’s largest economies will confront supply chain problems, rising energy prices and global inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic. Then he and many of the same leaders will travel to Scotland for COP26, a worldwide summit on climate change that could be a make-or-break moment to save a warming planet.

The president began his day at the Vatican, where he met with Francis for more than an hour. Because the meeting was private and the Vatican refused to confirm details beyond a news release about the topics the two men discussed, the only account of what Francis said came from Mr. Biden, who told reporters that the pope had endorsed his receiving communion but that the two had not discussed abortion.

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Biden Meets With Pope Francis Ahead of G20 Summit

President Biden and Jill Biden, the first lady, visited the Vatican for Mr. Biden’s private meeting with Pope Francis. During the visit, the president shared gifts and jokes with the pope.

There’s a tradition in America … [translator speaking] … that the president has what is called a command coin, that he gives to warriors and leaders. [translator speaking] And you are the most significant warrior for peace I’ve ever met. But I know my son would want me to give this to you because on the back of it, I have the state of Delaware and the 261st Unit my son served with. The tradition is — [translator speaking] and I’m only kidding about this … [translator speaking] … if next time I see you, if you don’t have it … [translator speaking] … you have to buy the drinks. [translator speaking] I’m the only Irishmen you’ve ever met, who has never had a drink. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were? [translator speaking] You’re 65. I’m 60. God love you.

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President Biden and Jill Biden, the first lady, visited the Vatican for Mr. Biden’s private meeting with Pope Francis. During the visit, the president shared gifts and jokes with the pope.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Later, he met with President Emmanuel Macron of France, who has been furious with the Biden administration since the United States cut a secret deal last month to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines — leaving France, which had thought it had a multibillion-dollar agreement to provide Australia with conventional submarines, empty-handed.

“What we did was clumsy,” Mr. Biden acknowledged before he and Mr. Macron retreated for a private meeting. “I had been under the impression long before that France had been informed.”

Mr. Macron — who has demanded “concrete” actions, not just diplomatic niceties, to repair the breach — called it “an extremely important clarification” and said, “Now what’s important is to be sure that such a situation will not be possible for our future.”

Between his meetings with the pope and Mr. Macron, Mr. Biden went to Chigi Palace, the home of Italy’s prime minister, Mario Draghi. With Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany leaving office and Mr. Macron politically embattled, Mr. Draghi has emerged as a leader of Europe and a potentially key ally for an American president looking to maintain strong relationships there.

Mr. Draghi and Mr. Biden discussed European security challenges in the Mediterranean, a global agreement to set corporate minimum taxes, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for future pandemics, and Italy’s past contributions in Afghanistan, according to White House officials. Mr. Draghi’s office said they had also talked about strengthening rules-based international cooperation, a major concern for European leaders after what many considered a unilateral American approach under President Donald J. Trump.

Mr. Biden will now bring his own priorities and political needs to the Group of 20 summit — whose other participants, facing enormous challenges of their own, will do the same. Many of them want concrete changes on issues like international tax shelters and getting coronavirus vaccines to low-income countries, even as they struggle to make progress on existential threats like carbon emissions.

Reporting was contributed by Roger Cohen, Helene Cooper, Jason Horowitz, Katie Rogers and Jim Tankersley.

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Biden Admits U.S. Handling of Submarine Deal Was ‘Clumsy’

President Biden met with President Emmanuel Macron of France at the French Embassy in Rome to reaffirm their relationship, after Australia called off a nuclear-powered submarine deal with France, and inked a deal with the United States and Britain instead.

I think what happened was, to use an English phrase, what we did was clumsy. It was not done with a lot of grace. I was under the impression certain things had happened that hadn’t happened. But I want to make it clear, France is an extremely, extremely valued partner. I was under the impression that France had been informed long before, that the deal was not going through. I, honest to God, did not know you had not been. But having said that, look, there’s too much we have done together. We’ve suffered together, celebrated together, and value together.

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President Biden met with President Emmanuel Macron of France at the French Embassy in Rome to reaffirm their relationship, after Australia called off a nuclear-powered submarine deal with France, and inked a deal with the United States and Britain instead.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

ROME — After a six-week diplomatic spat that involved a scuttled nuclear-powered submarine deal and a recalled ambassador, President Biden began a one-on-one effort to mend fences with President Emmanuel Macron of France by saying U.S. handling of the matter had been “clumsy.”

“What we did was clumsy,” Mr. Biden told reporters, sitting beside Mr. Macron just before they began a private meeting. “It was not done with a lot of grace.”

He added, “I had been under the impression long before that France had been informed.”

France had an agreement to build conventionally powered submarines for Australia’s navy, but last month the United States and Britain announced their own deal with Australia for nuclear-powered subs, instead. Australia called off the deal with France, whose officials had not been told that a pact with the Americans and British was in the works, infuriating Mr. Macron and others in his government.

Washington’s European allies were already irritated by the handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, which they said Mr. Biden ordered without consulting them. The treatment of the French submarine deal, they said, was further evidence of American dismissiveness.

Since that agreement was sabotaged, the two countries have worked hard to overcome the dispute, and the Biden administration has sent officials to Paris, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, to try to smooth things over. Unsatisfied with the niceties, France has demanded “concrete” results.

“Now what’s important is to be sure that such a situation will not be possible for our future,” Mr. Macron said in his own remarks to reporters. “This is an extremely important clarification.”

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Some of those results the French have demanded may be forthcoming, but were not announced when the two spoke to reporters before a lengthier diplomatic meeting.

American and French officials said the United States was prepared to bolster France’s counterterrorism efforts in Africa, including possibly sending additional reconnaissance planes and drones to the $110 million airfield that the United States has built in the desert scrub near Agadez, Niger.

The Biden administration will also try to address one of Mr. Macron’s priorities by giving a guarded backing to a European military force that is separate from NATO, the officials said.

It would also be viewed in Paris as a sign of American respect after…



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