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Politics

France’s Envoy to Return to US After Macron, Biden Talks

September 22, 2021

PARIS — France will send its ambassador back to Washington next week after French President Emmanuel Macron's phone call with President Joe Biden over a submarine dispute, the Elysee and the White House said Wednesday. 

Both heads of state "have decided to open a process of in-depth consultations, aimed at creating the conditions for ensuring confidence," the Elysee and the White House said in a joint statement. Macron and Biden will meet at the end of October in Europe, the statement said. 

The French ambassador will "have intensive work with senior U.S. officials" after his return next week to the United States. 

Biden and Macron agreed "that the situation would have benefitted from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners," the statement said. 

France recalled its ambassador after the U.S., Australia and Britain announced a new Indo-Pacific defense deal last week. Under the deal, Australia will cancel a multibillion-dollar contract to buy diesel-electric French submarines and acquire U.S. nuclear-powered vessels instead.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP's earlier story follows below.

French President Emmanuel Macron expects "clarifications and clear commitments" from U.S. President Joe Biden in a call to take place later on Wednesday to address a dispute over submarines, Macron's office said.

Macron's office said the call, which was requested by Biden, is to discuss "the crisis of trust" that led to the unprecedented recall of the French ambassador to the United States last week. 

Macron expects "clarifications on the American choice to keep a European ally away from key exchanges on an Indo-Pacific cooperation," the statement said. 

The Indo-Pacific defense deal between the U.S., Australia and Britain was announced last week by Biden, with France being formally informed only a few hours beforehand, according to French diplomats. The pact will see Australia cancel a multibillion-dollar contract to buy diesel-electric French submarines and acquire U.S. nuclear-powered vessels instead.

France wants an acknowledgment that talks should have been held between allies before the deal was made and that it is raising "a matter of trust about which we need to draw together all the consequences," according to Macron's office. 

Paris is calling for "acts, not words only," including on "the full recognition by our American ally of the need to strengthen European sovereignty and the importance for Europeans to have greater involvement in their defense and security," Macron's office said. 

France also wants the "common commitment in the fight against terrorism" to be reaffirmed. 

French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said the issue was raised by Macron during a weekly Cabinet meeting on Wednesday. The call with Biden aims to clarify "the conditions of the American re-commitment in an relationship between Allies," Attal said.

France's European Union partners agreed Tuesday to put the dispute at the top of bloc's political agenda, including at an EU summit next month.

The French presidency categorically denied a report by Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper published on Wednesday saying Macron could offer the country's permanent seat at the U.N. Security Council to the European Union if the bloc backs his plans on EU defense. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson dismissed French anger over the submarine deal, saying French officials should "get a grip." Using both French and English words, he added they should give him a "break."

Speaking to reporters on a visit to Washington, Johnson said the deal was "fundamentally a great step forward for global security. It's three very like-minded allies standing shoulder-to-shoulder, creating a new partnership for the sharing of technology."

"It's not exclusive. It's not trying to shoulder anybody out. It's not adversarial towards China, for instance."

The deal has widely been seen as part of American efforts to counter a more assertive China in the Indo-Pacific region.

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