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US and UK try to ease tensions with France over submarine deal ‘crisis’


U.S. President Joe Biden (R) and French President Emmanuel Macron (L) have a conversation ahead of the NATO summit at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters in Brussels, on June 14, 2021.

Anadolu Agency, Anadolu Agency — Getty Images LONDON – The United States of America and the United Kingdom seek to lessen tensions with France following a Paris-reported deal with Australia.| Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

LONDON — The United States and the United Kingdom are looking to ease tensions with France after a deal with Australia that Paris described as a “stab in the back.”

U.S. President Joe Biden on Sunday requested a call with French President Emmanuel Macron. French president’s spokesperson Monday said that Macron would like to have clarifications and the call would take place in the following days.

Boris Johnson (U.K. Prime Minister) said on Monday that he is proud of France’s relationship and that his love for France “is inextricable.”

This comes just weeks after Australia announced that it was ending a sub-marine deal with France. Instead, the United States was purchasing new technology in collaboration with the U.K.

It isn’t OK between us. In fact, it’s absolutely unacceptable. This means that there’s a crisis.

Jean Yves Le Drian

France’s foreign affairs minister

The new arrangement will see Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines rather than conventional ones — in what some experts describe as an attempt by the United States to step up its position against China in the Indo-Pacific region.

Beijing strongly criticized the agreement between Australia and the U.K. known as AUKUS. They called it “extremely irresponsible.”

‘There was a lie … a major breach of trust’

France has not held back following news of the deal and went as far as recalling its ambassadors from the U.S. and Australia.

It was a fabrication, it has been duplicity, it has caused a serious breach of trust and there have been acts of contempt. It’s not okay between us. “It means that there is a crisis.” Jean Yves Le Drian (French minister for foreign affairs) said to Info France on Saturday.

“We recall our ambassadors to attempt to understand these former partner nations and express our deep discontent. The minister said that once the ambassadors are back, we’ll have an opportunity to review our positions and to protect our interests in Australia as well as the United States.

Le Drian said, in addition, that the date has yet to be set for the return of both ambassadors. France cancelled the Paris-London meeting.

On Monday, a spokesperson representing France’s presidency stated that the original agreement between Paris and Canberra included “compensations,” without disclosing any value. According to Reuters, the total cost of submarines when Australia entered into a deal with France was $40 billion in 2016.

Europe’s diplomatic innocence

“By escalating the dispute, Macron hopes to bring a large chunk of French domestic opinion onto his side; Macron also hopes to force other EU countries to grasp that they now need to take sides, not perpetually equivocate on European defence and industrial strategy,” Mujtaba Rahman, director at the consultancy firm Eurasia, said in a note Saturday.

As France prepares for an April presidential election, these topics are especially important to Macron. It will also be leading discussions at the EU level if it is given the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union.

France’s chief of foreign affairs Le Drian stated that “I believe Europe is emerging form diplomatic innocence.”

In fact, Josep Borrell, who heads the EU’s foreign affairs portfolio, had said in the wake of the announcement: “We must survive on our own, as others do.”

Australia does not regret its decision

In the meantime, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended his decision and denied that France was lied to.

Morrison, speaking Sunday to BBC: “In the end this was a decision as to whether the submarines, which were built at great cost for the Australian taxpayer, would be able do the job that we need it to when they go into service. And our strategic judgement based upon the best intelligence and defence advice was that no,” Morrison explained.