US President Joe Biden and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday made a “friendly” phone call to calm a deep row over submarine sales to Australia, promising to meet in person to improve transatlantic ties .
The call, which the White House said lasted about 30 minutes, was the first between Biden and Macron since France withdrew its ambassador over the surprise US announcement of a deal to build nuclear submarines for Australia – selling conventional submarines. For broke the previous French deal. .
Paris called the US-Australian plan, which was launched as part of a new Indo-Pacific security grouping with Britain, a stab in the back and also pulled its ambassador from Australia.
In a joint statement after the call, the two leaders vowed to initiate “intense consultations to ensure trust…” and to meet in Europe in late October. The statement also said that Macron would order the French ambassador to be sent back to Washington next week.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters the talks were “friendly” and Biden “hoped it was a step to return to normalcy.”
The statement said the US recognized the need for stronger European defense to complement the NATO military alliance, an important idea repeatedly floated by the French leader.
As an acknowledgment of French anger, the English-language version of the statement released by the White House stated that the management of the dueling submarine deals would “benefit from open consultation among allies.”
The French-language version issued by the Elysee Palais was even more clear, saying the advisory “could have been avoided.”
There was no word on where the October meeting would take place, but Biden would already be in Rome and Glasgow for the G20 and COP26 climate summits at the time.
At the annual UN summit, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, after giving the cold shoulder for several days, spoke with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a meeting and the two are expected to meet again on Thursday , said a US official.
France’s naval group said it would send a detailed invoice to Australia in the coming weeks, originally meant to cancel the $50 billion ($36.5 billion, 31 billion euro) contract.
As well as a major commercial setback, the loss of the deal was also a blow to France’s security strategy in the Indo-Pacific, where it has a presence through overseas territories.
The submarine dispute plunged Franco-US relations into what some analysts saw as the most serious crisis since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, which Paris opposed.
The controversy also dashed hopes of a complete reset under Biden, who took office in January, aimed at rebuilding ties with Europe, after four years of turbulent relations with former President Donald Trump.
Wednesday’s call at least sought to settle the mood, soon after the White House released a photo of Biden smiling while talking to Macron.
“Messages from calls are good. It was recognized that communication should have been better,” said Benjamin Haddad, director of the Europe Center at think tank Atlantic Council.
“America understood that the main blow in Paris came not so much from the commercial aspect as from the breakdown in trust,” he said.
In another welcome move for Paris, the joint statement said the US remains committed to “strengthening its support for counter-terrorist operations” in Africa’s Sahel region, where French forces are stationed to fight jihadists. .
Observers and some of France’s European partners had begun to wonder how and when Macron would call for an end to the face-off, which is underway just seven months before the French presidential election.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson showed he was out of patience, saying it was “time for some of our dearest friends around the world to ‘prenaise un gripe’ (hold on).”
There is still no sign of France building ties with Australia, which it says is part of a long-term strategy to curb China’s growing presence in the Indo-Pacific.
An Elysee official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said no decision had been made on the return of the French ambassador to Canberra, while no call has been scheduled with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
(This story has not been edited by NB staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)