Biden seeks to smooth tensions in high-stakes call with Macron amid diplomatic crisis

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It was Biden’s first talks with French President Emmanuel Macron after a major diplomatic crisis between the two longtime allies over the deal.

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A joint statement between the United States and France later said Macron and Biden “agreed that the situation would benefit from open consultations between allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners.”

“President Biden conveyed his continued commitment in that regard,” the statement said.

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The rare admission of error was a sign of how seriously both sides were taking the diplomatic dispute, which led to the worst relations between the United States and France since the Freedom Fries era at the start of the Iraq War.

The conversation was expected to be tense. Macron has mostly withheld publicly commenting on the controversy, waiting to channel his anger directly to Biden. But other officials in his government spared no effort to describe France’s shock and fury over the submarine deal, which deprived France of a major contract of its own and left Paris feeling excluded and diminished.

Biden himself has ignored all questions over the France dispute since the crisis began late last week, but officials said he was surprised by the outside reaction from Paris and with his counterpart aiming to bring down the temperature. Wanted to settle things. phone.

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In his call, Biden and Macron agreed to meet in Europe at the end of next month. Biden had already planned to attend the Group of 20 summit in Rome in late October.

“The two leaders have decided to initiate a process of in-depth consultations, aimed at creating conditions for ensuring trust and proposing concrete measures for common objectives,” the statement said.

Macron also agreed to return his ambassador to Washington after he was called back for consultations in Paris.

Before the two presidents spoke, French officials drew up a long list of expectations for the telephone call, which took place mid-morning in Washington. An official in France’s presidential office, the Elysee, said Macron expected Biden to offer an explanation on how the deal came together without consulting with the French.

“We expect our allies to accept that the exchanges and consultations that should have been conducted were not, and it is a question of trust,” the official said. Macron will “try to identify a concrete process in a concrete time frame and at a higher level (which) will allow us to create conditions to restore confidence,” the official said.

Biden requested a call with Macron over the weekend as tensions mounted over the surprise submarine deal, which was seen as an important strategic move to counter China in the region. France informed the White House on Friday that Macron’s ambassador to Washington, Philippe Etienne, was being called back to Paris for consultations.

French was quick to publicly announce Biden’s request for a phone call, and the White House confirmed the two men were trying to connect. US officials said Biden wanted to talk with Macron soon about “the way forward”.

“We understand the situation in France,” a senior US administration official said on Monday. “We don’t share his views in terms of how it all developed.”

While Biden met in person with the prime ministers of Australia and the United Kingdom on Tuesday, he did not have any in-person meetings with Macron on the books until speaking on Wednesday.

The French president did not travel to the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week, a decision based on pandemic concerns that preceded the submarine dispute.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday he would not speak with Macron during the United Nations this week.

Morrison said, “It’s not an opportunity for him at the moment. I’m sure that opportunity will come in time. But right now, I understand the disappointment.”

And British Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared to shine a light on France’s displeasure during an interview outside the US Capitol in Washington.

“I think it’s time for some of my dearest friends around the world to hold on to this and do dne moi un brac,” Johnson said, adding a bit of franglish to suggest France. Using may overreact. He called the agreement “a fundamentally big step forward for global security”.

At least publicly, Biden was equally unlikely to downplay French concerns. Still, some US officials said they believed France was overly dramatic in its response to the submarine deal and noted that Macron looks set to compete for re-election in the coming months.

France has reacted with intense outrage to the agreement between the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom to form a new defense alliance focused on security in Asia. The foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said Biden’s actions reminded his predecessor Donald Trump of something he would have done, but “without the tweet.”

The move has also opened a new rift in the Western coalition and sparked growing public criticism from other European officials. The EU commissioner for internal markets, Thierry Breton, said in an interview with Granthshala on Monday that “something has broken down between our relations in Europe and the US.”

In an exclusive interview with Granthshala on Monday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said there are “a lot of questions” to be answered when it comes to the breakdown of the French-Australian submarine deal.

France stands to lose the equivalent of US$65 billion from the current deal to provide Australia with conventional, diesel-powered submarines. The canceled deal is expected to have a significant economic impact on the French defense sector. France also stands to lose strategically in the Indo-Pacific, where the country has vital interests.

But broadly speaking, the announcement sparked anger in France for staying out of sensitive discussions on the new deal, which he said was a stab in the back. US, Australian and British officials had been in highly secretive talks for months over a technology-sharing plan for nuclear-powered submarines, a process that was hatched more than a year ago and intensified after Biden took office in January Was.

Officials familiar with the matter said discussions were kept very quiet, given the sensitive nature of the technology, the potential to anger China and the belief that even within their own governments, the belief that any word would leak could, potentially ruin the whole thing. “The process was done with a high degree of discretion,” said a senior administration official.

Staff-level talks progressed during the spring before the issue was raised at a meeting between Biden, Morrison and Johnson on the sidelines of the Group 7 summit held on the English coast in June. No public disclosure of the submarine deal was made at the time.

Biden met Macron the same day – his only in person to date – and the two men appeared to get on well: Cameras caught them wrapping their arms over each other’s shoulders as they walked from beach to summit were the place. Officials said the conversation between the two men, which took place on a sunny terrace overlooking the Gulf of Corbys, seemed cordial. But according to officials in the US and France, the deal for the brewing submarine never happened.

Granthshala’s Kylie Atwood contributed to this report.

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Credit : www.cnn.com

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