US President Joe Biden, 78, and French head of state Emmanuel Macron, 43, have tried to get closer in the simmering submarine dispute. The two presidents agreed, on Wednesday, in a phone call, to “in-depth consultations” between their governments, as announced by the White House and the Elysee Palace in a joint statement.
Meanwhile, according to the United States, the foreign ministers of the two countries spoke to each other in person on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
The two governments’ declaration said the talks should “create conditions to ensure confidence” and that “concrete measures to achieve common goals” should be proposed. The summoned French ambassador to the United States, Philippe Etienne, is due to return to Washington next week.
A meeting between Biden and Macron in October
Then Biden and Macron want to meet face to face in Europe at the end of October. The G20 summit will take place in Rome at the end of October before the COP26 climate conference kicks off in Glasgow, Scotland.
On Wednesday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian spoke on the sidelines of a meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council with his US counterpart Anthony Blinken. As the US representative said, the two should meet again Thursday for a bilateral discussion.
The submarine dispute led to a deep rift between the two historically allied countries. The United States of America, Great Britain and Australia announced an Indo-Pacific alliance last week, which also includes the joint construction of nuclear submarines for Australia.
Because Australia then canceled a long-planned multi-billion dollar submarine deal with France, Paris was very angry. The French government accused the United States government, among other things, of operating behind its back.
Biden has now tried in the phone call he requested with Macron to smooth things over. “The two presidents agreed that the situation would have benefited from open consultations between allies on matters of strategic importance to France and our European partners,” the joint statement said. In this regard, Biden reiterated his “continued commitment.”
France’s “strategic importance” to the United States
Biden stressed the “strategic importance” of France and the European Union in the Indo-Pacific region – a region of great importance to the United States due to the growing influence of its rival China. The US president also recognized the “importance” of a stronger European defense system, “which makes a positive contribution to transatlantic and global security and complements NATO.”
He also announced that the United States would expand its support for counter-terrorism missions by European countries in the Sahel. The joint statement did not give details.
Macron’s spokesman, Gabriel Attal, had said before the phone call that the French president expected “clarifications”. There is also talk about “clarifying the circumstances under which this announcement was made and the conditions for renewing the American engagement as an ally.”
The European Union stands behind France
In the dispute, the European Union supported France. While European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called France’s treatment “unacceptable”, EU Council President Charles Michel accused the United States of a “clear lack of transparency and loyalty”.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas described US actions on Tuesday on the sidelines of the UN general debate as “disturbing” and “realistic” – but stressed on Wednesday that it was important to mitigate the situation: “It is important that the existing inconveniences go away from the world.”
While the signs in US-French relations suggest relaxation, there are no indications of a rapprochement in the conflict with Australia. On Wednesday, the head of the French submarine builder Naval Group, Pierre-Eric Pomlet, announced in the French newspaper “Le Figaro” that he would send Australia an invoice for the broken deal “in a few weeks”. (AFP)
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