Biden and Macron to meet in Europe after dispute over Australian sub-deal

US President Joe Biden (left) and French President Emmanuel Macron speak after the family photo at the start of the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall on June 11, 2021.

Ludovic Marin | AFP | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden held talks with French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday as leaders sought to ease tensions over a messy arms deal with Australia that sparked a diplomatic row leading to the recall of France – the oldest ally of the United States – its ambassador to the United States

“The two leaders agreed that the situation would have benefited from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners. President Biden has indicated his continued commitment in this regard,” according to a joint statement. of the White House and the Elysee.

“They will meet in Europe at the end of October in order to reach a common understanding and to maintain the momentum in this process,” the statement added.

Macron has also agreed to return France’s ambassador to the United States, Philippe Etienne, to Washington next week. France had recalled its ambassador to protest an arms deal in which the United States and the United Kingdom had agreed to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines.

The agreement effectively terminated a long-standing submarine contract between Australia and France. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the arms deal “stab in the back. “

“This exceptional decision is justified by the exceptional gravity of the announcements made on September 15 by Australia and the United States,” said Le Drian last week, announcing that France would recall its ambassadors in Australia and the United States.

French officials had also canceled a gala within the grounds of their sprawling embassy in Washington, commemorating the decisive role played by the French Navy in the American War of Independence.

The agreement on submarines is part of a new security partnership between the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom in the Indo-Pacific region. Prime Ministers Scott Morrison of Australia and Boris Johnson of the UK joined Biden virtually for the partnership announcement last week.

The leaders said the security partnership would seek to bolster stability in the Indo-Pacific as China expands its military power and influence. The submarine deal will allow the Australian Navy to help counter Chinese nuclear-powered ships.

Biden also agreed on Wednesday to step up support for counterterrorism operations in the Sahel, a region of Africa where around 5,100 French troops are deployed.

“The United States also recognizes the importance of a stronger and more capable European defense, which positively contributes to transatlantic and global security and is complementary to NATO,” the White House said in a joint statement on Wednesday. .

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