French envoy to return to D.C. as Biden, Macron speak

The French Ambassador to the United States will return to Washington after President Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron had their first telephone conversation on Wednesday since Paris erupted in anger over Mr Biden’s deal that would supplant France in a massive undersea weapons deal with Australia.

In a joint statement, the two nations also announced that Mr. Biden and Mr. Macron will meet in Europe at the end of October. Upon his return to the United States, the French ambassador will engage in intensive diplomacy with senior American officials, the statement said.

The two leaders agreed that the spitting from the submarine could have been avoided by engaging in open consultation with allies on the issue. The United States and Britain secretly negotiated the pact unveiled last week to supply a new generation of nuclear-powered submarines to Canberra, which then canceled a previous order of diesel-powered submarines that was l one of the most lucrative ever recorded for the French defense industry.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the 30-minute call friendly, but declined to say whether the president had apologized to Mr Macron. She said Mr Biden conceded that there should have been “greater consultation” before the leaders of the United States, Britain and Australia revealed the deal last week.
“All those who are concerned about our relations with France can rest assured that they have had a friendly phone call and a way forward,” Ms. Psaki said.

Mr Macron’s office, in its description of the call, said Mr Biden also pledged to step up US support for counterterrorism missions led by France and other European powers in the Sahel region of Africa.

Biden expressed his continued commitment to maintain a dialogue, the statement said.

It is not known if the conversation was tense, but it was expected to be after the French attacked Mr Biden over the deal, for which Mr Macron received virtually no notice. . France, which considers itself the oldest diplomatic ally of the United States, had never before recalled an ambassador for consultations to express its dissatisfaction with American policies.

In a statement announcing the appeal, Macron said the scuttling of France’s deal with Australia had created a “crisis of confidence” between the two leaders.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in Washington this week for talks with the White House and lawmakers, has been considerably less diplomatic, mixing up French and English while telling reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday: “I think just that it’s time for some of our dearest friends in the world to take a hold on this and give me a break.

Mr Johnson said the submarine deal represented “three like-minded allies standing side by side to create a new partnership for sharing technology.”

“It’s not exclusive,” he added. “It’s not trying to support anyone.”

Mr Biden has avoided press questions on the matter, even as the crisis escalated. The two leaders are expected to issue a joint statement following the call, French officials told reporters.

The White House has been pushing since Monday to set up a call between the two leaders. A senior administration official, speaking to reporters this week, said the United States did not share France’s view on the deal with Australia, but understood why it was upset by the the way things had turned out.

Mr Biden last week announced a trilateral security pact with Australia that includes the UK. In a deal widely seen as seeking to counter China’s growing influence and military might, the United States will provide Australia with the technology for nuclear-powered submarines, but not for nuclear weapons.

The loss of a previous $ 66 billion deal has cut hundreds of thousands of jobs, according to French media.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he was “angry and bitter” about the deal and made strong remarks for Australia and the United States last week.

Mr Le Drian called the deal a “stab in the back”, saying that was not the length of time the allies were dealing with each other. He also said the “brutal, one-sided move” resembled some of the steps taken by former President Donald Trump, who has often angered European allies with his “America First” program.

France has recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia. He also called off a gala last week in Washington to celebrate ties between the two nations and signaled he could delay or completely block a planned trade deal between the European Union and Australia.

The nuclear sub-deal was one of the main topics of discussion at the Pentagon on Wednesday during a meeting between Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, US officials said.

“They certainly spoke about the arrangement of the importance of the arrangement not only for Australia but for the security dynamics in the Indo-Pacific,” said Pentagon chief spokesman John Kirby. , who declined to go into details.

Before the intervention of Mr. Biden and Mr. Macron, Mr. Austin met with French Defense Minister Florence Parlay on Monday.

“France is our oldest ally. We share a lot of security interests in the world and in the Indo-Pacific in particular, ”Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon. “We will maintain a commitment to each other. “

Editor-in-chief Mike Glenn contributed to this report.

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