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U.S., France Continue to Strengthen Defense Relationship

Jan. 27, 2020 | BY Terri Moon Cronk , DOD News

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper welcomed France's Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly to the Pentagon to discuss issues of mutual interest between their nations.

After their meeting, the secretary told Parly it was a pleasure to meet with her again as they continue to strengthen the long-standing defense relationship between the United States and France and to discuss the way forward on shared priorities. 

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper shakes hands with his French counterpart in front of the American flag and several others flags.
Esper Handshake
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper poses for a photo with France's Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly at the Pentagon, Jan. 27, 2020.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James K. Lee
VIRIN: 200127-D-WA993-2074

''For more than 200 years, the alliance between France and the United States has helped safeguard the values of liberty and the rule of law,'' the secretary said, noting that France remains a vital partner in U.S. efforts around the world. 

Our two nations share a bond that spans centuries and is rooted in a mutual respect for the values of democracy, liberty and individual rights.''
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper

Both nations recognize the threats posed by Russia and China in this era of great-power competition and remain committed to addressing them together, Esper said. 

French support to NATO is critical to collective security, the secretary added. 

''I'd like to thank the minister for her commitment to burden-sharing, as you work toward reaching the 2% of [gross domestic product] spending target,'' Esper said. He added that the United States continues to encourage all NATO members to increase their contributions and invest in the readiness of the alliance. 

Two people stand at podiums in front of a Pentagon sign and an American flag and a French flag.
News Conference
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper holds a news conference with France's Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly at the Pentagon, Jan. 27, 2020.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James K. Lee
VIRIN: 200127-D-WA993-2080

In the Middle East, both the United States and France are working to ensure the lasting defeat of ISIS and supporting Iraq on its path to becoming a more secure and prosperous and independent state, the secretary said.

In their meeting today, Easper said, he and Parly discussed NATO's expanded role in the region as they continue to work together through the defeat-ISIS coalition. ''Ultimately, we recognize that alliance unity is the key to our success here and across the globe,'' Esper said.

A dozen people meet around a large conference table.
Esper Meeting
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper meets with France's Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly at the Pentagon, Jan. 27, 2020.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James K. Lee
VIRIN: 200127-D-WA993-2076

Meanwhile, the United States and France both recognize the dangers of Iran's aggression, Esper emphasized, and agree they must work together to get Iran to ''behave like a normal country.''

U.S. actions over the last several weeks were essential to restoring deterrence and making clear to the Iranian regime that threats to American forces, partners, and interests will not be tolerated, Esper said. The United States hopes to do more with France to strengthen NATO, deepen trans-Atlantic cooperation, and ensure collective security, he added. 

''Our two nations share a bond that spans centuries and is rooted in a mutual respect for the values of democracy, liberty and individual rights,'' the secretary said. ''Our cooperation will continue in this same spirit, and will help us overcome the threats of tomorrow.'' 

Two people stand at podiums in front of a Pentagon sign.
Esper Briefing
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper holds a news conference with France's Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly at the Pentagon, Jan. 27, 2020.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James K. Lee
VIRIN: 200127-D-WA993-2082

Parly noted that NATO defense ministers will be meeting next month. ''As both of us are preparing for the February defense NATO ministerial, we have agreed that the organization remains the cornerstone of our collective security,'' she said.

U.S. security is a changing landscape, Parly said, ''and France fully supports America's insistence on Europeans taking a larger share of the [NATO] burden, spending more, committing more and fighting more. That's what my country does.''