Biden calls for early talks with Macron amid sub-conflict
US President Joe Biden has called for early talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, France said yesterday in an apparent effort to mend fences after a dispute over a submarine contract that sparked rare tensions between allies .
The announcement came after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison dismissed French accusations that Canberra lied about its intention to cancel a contract to purchase French submarines, saying he had made known his concerns about the deal “a few months ago”.
Australia’s decision to tear up the French deal in favor of US nuclear-powered ships sparked outrage in Paris, with Macron recalling France’s ambassadors in Canberra and Washington in an unprecedented move.
However, French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said yesterday that there would be a telephone conversation between Biden and Macron “in the next few days” at the request of the US president.
Macron is reportedly asking the US president for “clarifications” after Wednesday’s announcement of an Australia-UK-US defense pact known as AUKUS that resulted in Canberra canceling a massive contract for French diesel-electric vessels.
“We want an explanation,” Attal said, adding that the United States must answer for “what looks a lot like a major breach of trust.”
Morrison said he and his ministers had made no secret of their problems with the French ships.
“I think they would have had every reason to know that we had deep and serious concerns,” he told reporters in Sydney. “We made it clear that we would make a decision based on our strategic national interest.”
French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves le Drian on Saturday used clearly undiplomatic language towards Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom.
“There were lies, duplicity, major breach of trust and contempt,” Le Drian told France 2 television.
He said that the recall of the ambassadors for the first time in the history of relations with countries was “to show how unhappy we are and that there is a serious crisis between us”.
The French contract to supply conventional submarines to Australia amounted to A $ 50 billion (US $ 36.4 billion at the current exchange rate) when it was signed in 2016.
Morrison said he understood France’s disappointment, but added: “I don’t regret the decision to put Australia’s national interest first. Never will be. “
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