Philippe Etienne who is France’s Ambassador to the U.S will be returning to Washington DC next week. The announcement was done after U.S President Joe Biden spoke to his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, on Wednesday.
This was their first phone call since the aftermath of the announcement on September 15 of a trilateral security agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, which prompted France to withdraw its envoys to the United States and Australia. According to a joint statement, the call was initiated at U.S President Biden’s request.
It’s unusual for comments to say who initiated the contact, implying that the Biden administration is doing a lot of damage control with America’s oldest ally. Mr. Macron was enraged by the AUKUS pact, which was negotiated behind closed doors and came as a surprise to other countries.
The French said that the founding of AUKUS had thrown a wrench in their Indo-Pacific plans and came at a high cost. In 2016, France and Australia agreed to a $66 billion deal in which Australia will receive diesel-electric submarines. As a result of AUKUS, Australia is now out of that deal. AUKUS’ main deliverable, for the time being, is to provide Australia with a fleet of superior submarines that run on nuclear power.
ÂThe two leaders agreed that the situation would have benefitted from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners. President Biden conveyed his ongoing commitment in that regard,Â the statement said.
Mr. Etienne will begin Âintensive workÂ with U.S. officials when he gets back next week, the White House said, to build confidence between the two countries, whose leaders will next meet in Glasgow at the UN Conference on climate.
ÂPresident Biden reaffirms the strategic importance of French and European engagement in the Indo-Pacific region, including in the framework of the European UnionÂs recently published strategy for the Indo-Pacific,Â the joint statement said, presumably responding to a statement from French officials calling for greater strategic autonomy for Europe following the AUKUS announcement.
WednesdayÂs statement also said that Mr. Biden recognized the importance of a more capable and strong European defense contributing to transatlantic and global security and complementing NATO.
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