According to a joint statement between the White House and the French Elysee released Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron has decided to send his ambassador to the United States back to Washington. “He will then start intensive work with senior US officials,” to work on mending the relationship between the two countries, the statement said. It was released after a phone call between Macron and President Joe Biden earlier in the day.
The video above shows White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki discussing the details of the phone.
The relationship had been strained following the U.S. announcement of a new Indo-Pacific defense deal last week. As part of the deal, Australia will cancel a multibillion-dollar contract to buy diesel-electric French submarines, going with U.S. nuclear-powered submarines instead.
At the time, France’s Foreign Minister described the move as “a stab in the back”.
“We built a relationship of trust with Australia, and this trust was betrayed,” Jean-Yves Le Drian said. “This is not done between allies, especially when there’s been two years of negotiations for this contract.”
France not only recalled their ambassador to the U.S. shortly after last week’s announcement, but Australia and Great Britain (also part of the deal), as well. The Elysee said no decision has been made about the French ambassador to Australia, and no phone call with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been scheduled.
In Wednesday’s joint statement, it was acknowledged “the situation would have benefitted from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France”.
The statement went on to say Biden and Macron will meet in October. It’s part of “a process of in-depth consultations, aimed at creating the conditions for ensuring confidence and proposing concrete measures toward common objectives”.
Following the Macron-Biden call, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. The video above also contains a clip from that meeting. It was a move made with the goal of repairing the damage the deal did to broader EU-U.S. relations.
“The United States also recognizes the importance of a stronger and more capable European defense, that contributes positively to transatlantic and global security and is complementary to NATO,” the statement said.
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary: “In terms of the tone of the call, it was friendly. It was one where we’re hopeful and the president is hopeful this is a step in returning to normal in a long, important abiding relationship that the United States has with France. It was about 30 minutes long. As we noted in the readout and as you said, it was extensive. But part of the, during the conversation, the president reaffirmed the strategic importance of France, French and European engagement, I should say, in the Indo-Pacific region, something that we look forward to continuing to work with them on. And as we said in the readout, the French ambassador will return to Washington next week and he will then start intensive work with U.S. officials. That will be part of the ongoing next steps that we go from here. And as we also noted, they will meet in Europe at the end of October.”
Reporter: “Boris Johnson earlier today dismissed French anger over the submarine deal, saying French officials should get a grip. Is calling on the French to get a grip helpful at this point?”
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary: “Well, I can only speak for our relationship with the French and our relationship with the United Kingdom. And I will say that the president during this call, as we said in the readout, acknowledged that there could be more of a, there could have been more discussion in advance of the announcement. And that was an important, important message for him to convey during that conversation. So I can’t speak to the comments and whether they’re constructive or not from other countries.”
Reporter: “Did president Biden apologize to Emanuel Macron?”
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary: “He acknowledged that there could have been greater consultation. And the call, again, as I stated earlier, was a friendly call and there was agreement that we wanted to move forward in our relationship.”
Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State: “Good afternoon everyone. It is a real pleasure to be able to spend some time with my good friend and colleague Josep Borrell. We’ve spent a lot of time already in recent months working very closely together. But really today building off of the very important and productive U.S./E.U. summit that President Biden took part in. A lot of work that we’ve been doing since then including the establishment of the trade and technology council which we all look forward to in the coming weeks. And a lot to talk about about the work we’re doing together quite literally around the world to include of course Afghanistan and the Indo Pacific and Europe and beyond. So Josep, it’s wonderful to see you as always and I look forward to our conversation. Thank you.”
Josep Borrell, European Union Foreign Policy Chief: “Thank you Tony for this meeting. It’s a great pleasure to meet you again. We got to work together this morning in the video meeting. We are crossing in the corridors of the United Nations in this very agitated week. And I am sure we are going to talk about recent issues where we can build a stronger confidence among us following the conversation that I think took place this morning between President Biden and President Macron. I’m sure we’ll be working together. Merci.”
Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State: “Thank you, good to see you. Thanks everyone.”