Bidens and celebrities welcome France's Macron and wife to Washington

The Macrons visited Arlington National Cemetery, Nasa and the French embassy, where they honoured US veterans of the Second World War

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US President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron on Thursday for a state dinner at the White House, the first of Mr Biden's presidency.

More than 300 guests attended the gathering. They including government officials, business executives and celebrities Chrissy Teigen and her husband John Legend, television host and comedian Stephen Colbert, actresses Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jennifer Garner and Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

Guests were also treated to a performance by Grammy-winning musician Jon Batiste.

The dinner menu included caviar, butter-poached lobster from Maine and orange chiffon cake with creme fraiche ice cream for dessert.

Heated tents were set up on the South Lawn of the White House to accommodate the estimated 300 guests. Reuters

The highly anticipated dinner was just a part of a whirlwind trip for the French leader, who is trying to secure Europe’s energy future amid the war in Ukraine while also working to end the conflict, and to shore up trade relations with the US, which are being threatened by the Inflation Reduction Act.

Mr Biden welcomed his French counterpart to the White House on Thursday morning in an elaborate ceremony fit for America's oldest ally.

“Our history has been shaped by the courage of the women and men who crossed the Atlantic, kindness within their hearts, the flame of liberty — today that flame burns more brightly than ever and the alliance between our two nations remains essential to our mutual defence,” said Mr Biden.

The two leaders stressed the strength and enduring nature of their countries' centuries-old relationship in the face of challenging times.

“It is our shared destiny to respond to those challenges together,” said Mr Macron. “True to our history, clear sighted about our world and determined to generate hope. Long live the friendship between the United States and France.”

The two met for several hours in the Oval Office to discuss the war in Ukraine, European and global security as well as their shared concern over climate change and the continued commitment to bilateral trade, a joint statement released by the White House said.

On the Middle East, they welcomed the launch of the Negev Forum and the anniversary of the Abraham Accords.

A peek at the state dinner in honour of President Emmanuel Macron — in pictures

The leaders also urged Lebanon to “elect a president and advance critical reforms”.

Speaking to reporters, both leaders stressed the importance of the roles the other played in the historic maritime deal between Lebanon and Israel, with Mr Biden calling France the “closer” and Mr Macron saying: “I think most of the work was yours.”

Mr Macron raised his country's concerns with the Inflation Reduction Act, which he had previously called “super aggressive”.

The US President expressed a willingness to look for ways forward, without mentioning any concrete steps.

“There are tweaks that we can make that can fundamentally make it easier for European countries to participate and or be on their own,” Mr Biden said. “That is something that is a matter to be worked out.”

On the war in Ukraine, Mr Macron, who is set to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the coming days, told reporters: “We will never urge Ukrainians to make a compromise which will not be acceptable for them.

“They are so brave and they defend, precisely, their lives, their nation and our principles.”

Mr Biden said he would only be willing to speak to Mr Putin if his Russian counterpart was ready to “look for a away to end the war”.

“He hasn't done that yet,” Mr Biden said.

On Wednesday, the French President toured Nasa headquarters with US Vice President Kamala Harris.

The two leaders discussed their countries’ close collaboration on the James Webb Space Telescope and a host of other galactic endeavours.

“Today we have the occasion to celebrate the co-operation of our two nations in space … today we build on the progress we have made and today we will also identify additional areas of collaboration and co-operation,” said Ms Harris.

Mr Macron said: “Speaking about space is obviously speaking about both science as well as this journey [Ms Harris] mentioned. But this is as well a story about the great co-operation between our two countries and we have done a lot during the past decades together and I think we can [continue to] do a lot.”

French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron place a white rose on the tomb of French-American military engineer Pierre Charles L'Enfant at Arlington National Cemetery. AFP

The French President and his wife also visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery outside of Washington, where they honoured the deep military bonds between the two nations. Ms Macron placed white roses on the tomb of French-American military engineer Pierre Charles L'Enfant.

At the French embassy across the Potomac River, Mr Macron presented the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest order of merit, to several US veterans of the Second World War, including George Idelson, Buddy Reynolds, Samuel Davis and Carl Felton.

“Paying the price of blood and suffering, you came to fight 80 years ago from the other side of the Atlantic to ensure our shared ideas and face democracy will triumph. For that, France will be eternally grateful,” he said.

The Macrons ended their evening with an intimate dinner with the Bidens at Fiola Mare, an upscale Italian seafood restaurant in Georgetown.

The two leaders were seen eating ice cream for dessert, Mr Biden’s well-known favourite.

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Updated: December 02, 2022, 5:00 AM
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