Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Macron, Biden agree to soothe tensions after submarine row

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PARIS: US President Joe Biden and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron spoke for the first time on Wednesday since a row erupted over the sale of submarines to Australia, vowing to restore confidence damaged by what Paris saw as a betrayal.

Macron was left furious by Australia’s decision last week to ditch a 2016 deal to buy diesel submarines from France in favour of nuclear-powered ones from the United States and Britain, which had been secretly negotiated.

In a joint statement issued after the call, the leaders vowed to launch a process of “in-depth consultations… for ensuring confidence” and to meet in Europe at the end of October at an unspecified location.

In what amounted to an acknowledgment of French anger, the statement from the White House said that “the situation would have benefited from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners”.

But the French-language version issued by the Elysee Palace of the joint statement was even more explicit, saying that open consultations “would have avoided this situation.”

The statement also said the US recognised the need for stronger European defence to complement the NATO military alliance, a key idea repeatedly floated by the French leader.

In the first concrete sign of a slackening of tensions, Macron agreed to send back next week France’s ambassador to Washington who had been recalled to Paris in an unprecedented diplomatic protest.

The October meeting between Macron and Biden would meanwhile seek “to reach shared understandings and maintain momentum in this process” to restore confidence, the statement said.

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