France and the United States have made steps to resolve a dispute that began last week with the announcement of a defence deal between the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. The Aukus deal lost France a multibillion-dollar submarine contract. The French and US presidents agreed to attempt to find a way ahead in a 30-minute phone discussion on Wednesday.
The US admitted that “open talks” would have helped the issue, and France agreed to return its ambassador to Washington. The two governments announced in a carefully worded joint statement that US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron will “start a process of in-depth consultations aimed at assuring confidence.” At the end of next month, the two leaders will meet in Europe. In protest of the Aukus accord, France recalled its diplomats to Washington and Canberra for discussions. While the ambassador to Washington has returned to his job, it is unclear whether the envoy to Canberra will.
Mr. Biden highlighted the importance of French and European participation in the Asia-Pacific area in a statement released on Wednesday. Nomia Iqbal, a BBC Washington correspondent, described the Americans’ statement on Wednesday as a non-apology: an apology to the French for the lack of engagement, but not for the strategy itself (Aukus). President Macron delegated the dirty work to his foreign minister. He probably told Jean-Yves Le Drian not to be so diplomatically constrained and to express his fury. As a result, the minister’s remark about “lying” and “stabs in the back” makes sense. As a result, charges of French “petulance” and toys hurled out of prams have resurfaced. Because of the division of labour in the French system, the president is now free to rise above the name-calling and, in the best interests of the French people, pursue the high road to reconciliation. At least with the Americans. The Australians will have to wait a little longer. Washington complied by acknowledging that things may have been handled differently, nodding to European defence, and pledging to increase support in North Africa. Next week, the French ambassador returns to Washington. They’re conversing again, but there’s no longer any trust between them.