The exit from a diplomatic crisis between France and the United States on a mega submarine agreement “will take time and will require action”, declared Thursday the French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian to his American counterpart Antony Blinken.
France was furious to learn last week that Australia had signed an agreement with the United States and Britain for nuclear-powered submarine technology, abandoning a multibillion-dollar deal in 2016 in which Canberra agreed to buy French submarines.
Blinken’s meeting with Le Drian came a day after US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron spoke by phone and agreed to launch extensive consultations to restore trust between the two NATO allies. They also agreed to meet in Europe at the end of October.
Le Drian and Blinken, meeting at the United Nations in New York, discussed “the modalities and the main issues” to be addressed during these consultations, according to a statement from the French Foreign Ministry.
The dispute plunged Franco-American relations into what some considered the most acute crisis since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, which Paris strongly opposed. France recalled last week its ambassadors from the United States and Australia.
Macron and Biden first met in person in June at a G7 summit in Cornwall, southwest England, where they were seen smiling widely together.
Gilles Gressani, chairman of the geopolitical study group, said this week that confrontations with the United States are “a constant in French foreign policy”. But regarding the scuttled submarine deal, he said, “the intensity of [France’s] the reaction is striking “.
France’s European allies, meanwhile, have rallied around Paris, but some have warned the dispute should not torpedo trade talks.
I met my American counterpart this morning in New York @SecBlinken to initiate a process of in-depth discussions between our two countries.
– Jean-Yves Le Drian (@JY_LeDrian) September 23, 2021
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was sidelined by Macron after the submarine deal was canceled, but pledged to be “patient” in fixing them. frayed relationships.
Speaking in Washington on Wednesday evening, Morrison said he had tried to reach the French leader but the call had “not yet” taken place.
“But we will be patient. We understand their disappointment,” said Morrison, a week after tearing up a $ 66 billion deal to buy a dozen French diesel-electric submarines.
Relations between France and the UK are also still frigid.
Diplomatic sources at the United Nations said the French had rejected British efforts to organize a bilateral meeting between Foreign Minister Liz Truss and Le Drian.
The pair were, however, seen shaking hands during a meeting of the five permanent members of the Security Council on Wednesday.
Le Drian described Britain as “a bit of a fifth wheel on the wagon” of the AUKUS deal and called the UK an “opportunist”.
Former French Ambassador to the United States Gérard Araud called the British “American poodles, as usual”.
(TBEN with TBEN, TBEN and REUTERS)