Brussels (Brussels Morning) France’s President Emmanuel Macron announced he would return the country’s ambassador to the US next week after a telephone conversation with his US counterpart, President Joe Biden on Wednesday.
This was the first talk between the two presidents since France was infuriated last week by Australia, the UK and the US signing the Aukus military pact, which saw Canberra abandon its diesel submarine procurement contract with Paris in favour of building nuclear submarines with help from Washington and London.
Macron, having been left out of the loop about the Aukus pact, a time when he firmly believed the 60 billion dollar contract remained securely in the hands of the French Naval Group, withdrew his ambassadors from Washington and Canberra on Friday as a sign of France’s severe disapproval.
The 30-minute talk between Biden and Macron on Wednesday reportedly went a long way in repairing the relations between Paris and Washington. Biden apparently made a number of concessions to the French, admitting that the entire diplomatic incident could have been avoided had the Aukus trio consulted France at any point during their negotiations.
In a joint statement released after the talk, Biden recognised “the importance of a stronger and more capable European defence that contributes positively to transatlantic and global security and is complementary to NATO”. The White House thus apparently expressed its support for the creation of an EU-wide military force, something Macron had been urging for years, despite being snubbed frequently by his NATO allies.
Washington also pledged to boost its support for “counter-terrorism missions led by European nations in Africa’s Sahel region”. French Barkhane forces operate in Mali, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.
On the other hand, Macron gave no indication as to when France’s ambassador to Australia might return. Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison did express his regret over the French disappointment with Aukus, but refused to offer any sort of apology, claiming that Paris had been well informed that its contract might be scrapped.
According to a diplomatic source from the French embassy in Canberra, cited by Reuters, Australia had given no warning to France that the contract might be in jeopardy. The high-level cooperation contract also contained provisions for their respective defence ministers to hold confidential discussions in the event of changes in the security or political situation. However, at no point was France approached with any such suggestion or proposal.