President Joe Biden and France’s Emmanuel Macron took steps on Wednesday to repair their extraordinary diplomatic rift over a U.S. defense pact with Australia — holding a phone call in which the two leaders agreed to meet in person next month and Macron agreed to send France’s ambassador back to Washington next week.
Macron took the extraordinary step last week of recalling his ambassador after the submarine deal was announced.
Macron was upset both with the deal — which included Australia cancelling a submarine contract it had with the French — as well as with how the French learned about it.
In a joint statement by Macron and Biden after they spoke Wednesday, the leaders agreed “that the situation would have benefitted from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners.”
Biden does not apologize but the statement does say that Biden “conveyed his ongoing commitment in that regard.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki described the approximately 30-minute call as friendly — and focused on the future.
“He acknowledged that there could have been greater consultation,” she said. “And there was agreement that we wanted to move forward in our relationship.”
The agreement the administration announced last week includes a partnership with Australia and the United Kingdom to share artificial intelligence, undersea capabilities and other advanced technologies. The U.S. will help Australia develop a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.
It’s intended to counter growing Chinese military aggression in the Indo-Pacific,
Speaking outside the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the French need to get a grip and “donnez-moi un break.”
“This is fundamentally a great step forward for global security,” Johnson said.
Biden and Macron will meet in Europe at the end of October to “reach shared understandings” and continuing working towards “creating the conditions for ensuring confidence,” according to their statement.
As the Biden administration tries to keep the focus on Asia, the statement includes a recognition of the importance of Europe towards global security.
In a tweet sent a few hours later, Biden “reaffirmed the importance of French and European engagement in the Indo-Pacific region.
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