Paris and Washington want to repair the bridges torpedoed by the Australian submarine crisis. Presidents Emmanuel Macron and Joe Biden spoke on Wednesday for the first time since, a week ago, Paris denounced the “breach of trust” that, it claims, represented the secret agreement announced on September 15 by the United States to provide Australia with submarines. despite the fact that France had signed a multi-million dollar contract with Canberra for it. In the telephone conversation, the presidents have agreed to start a process of “in-depth consultations” to restore mutual trust, which should be consolidated with a meeting of both next month.
Macron and Biden “will meet in Europe at the end of October to reach points of understanding and preserve all the dynamism of the process” of consultations opened after the conversation on Wednesday, according to a joint statement from the Elysee and the White House, which underlines that the The call came at the request of the US president.
As a show of goodwill, Macron has decided to return “next week” of his ambassador in Washington, Philippe Etienne, whom he called for consultations on Friday, in an unusual sign of the severity of the crisis. The Elysee “has not yet made any decision” on the return to Canberra of its ambassador in Australia, also summoned on Friday.
Etienne will be in charge of leading by the French side the “intense work” ahead to return to the state of relations before a crisis broke out that “could have been avoided” if there had been “open consultations between the allies on questions of strategic interest for France and its European allies ”, the statement added. This last clarification responds to a demand from Paris. As the Elysee had indicated, the French president, who so far has not spoken publicly on the matter, had accepted the conversation on condition that Biden provided convincing “clarifications” on the pact with Australia and presented “concrete measures” to overcome the serious “breach of confidence” that in the opinion of Paris has caused the case of the submarines.
According to Paris, Macron was not willing to settle for mere promises from Biden, who in recent hours has met in New York and Washington with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Britain’s Boris Johnson, respectively, further reinforcing the ties of the new English-speaking entente.
Paris demanded that Washington assume “the strategic importance of the French and European commitment in the Indo-Pacific region”, as well as the “full recognition” of the “need to reinforce European sovereignty, as well as the growing commitment of Europeans to its defense and defense. security”. He also hoped that Washington would recognize the “common commitment in the fight against terrorism.” The response from the White House has been explicit: “In the framework of the joint fight against terrorism, the US is committed to reinforcing its support for counterterrorism operations in the Sahel led by European states.” There has been no express reference to France, which in June announced the withdrawal of its forces from Mali in favor of a broader operation in the region with other European partners.
“President Biden has reaffirmed the strategic importance of the French and European engagement in the Indo-Pacific region, manifested in the recent disclosure of the EU strategy for the region,” the statement continues, with several nods to Brussels. “The US also recognizes the importance of a stronger and more capable European defense, which contributes positively to transatlantic and global security and is complementary to NATO.”
The telephone diplomacy has included a call from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to Macron asking for reassurance. From Washington, where he is on an official visit, the Briton joked about the anger of the Elysee tenant. “I think it is time for our dear friends around the world to reassure themselves about all this. [la crisis de los submarinos] and give me a break, “he said jokingly.
France had the decisive support of Germany – unlike Spain, in profile in this crisis – to make concrete demands on Biden, substantiated in the declaration of intent that represents this clean slate in bilateral relations. But gestures such as the cancellation of a multilateral meeting of the United States and several European allies, including France, on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York, do not help. The meeting has been canceled due to scheduling problems, according to US sources. Nor is a face-to-face between the heads of US diplomacy, Antony Blinken, and France, Jean-Yves Le Drian, contemplated on the occasion of said forum. The two plan to exchange views on Wednesday at a meeting of the permanent members of the Security Council, but no individual meeting is planned, according to the State Department.
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