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Biden seeks phone call with France's Macron amid submarine spat

The Hill
The Hill
 26 days ago
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President Biden hopes to hold a call with French President Emmanuel Macron to smooth over tensions after France reacted angrily last week to a new partnership between the U.S. and Australia on nuclear-powered submarines.

“President Biden has asked to be able to speak with President Macron to talk about the way forward, to talk about his deep commitment to the U.S. alliance with France, an alliance that has fostered security, stability and prosperity around the world for decades,” a senior Biden administration official told reporters on a call Monday.

A call between the two leaders has not been scheduled but the official indicated that it was likely to happen. A spokesman for Macron told The Associated Press over the weekend that Macron would speak with Biden in the coming days at the American president’s request.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters later Monday afternoon that the call would take place “in the coming days” but that officials are still working to schedule it. She said that U.S. and French officials are in “active conversation about a call.”

“The president wants to communicate his desire to work closely with France in the Indo-Pacific and globally and to talk about specific practical measures that we can undertake together,” the Biden administration official said. “We understand the French position. We don’t share their view in terms of how this all developed but we understand their position and we will continue to be engaged in the coming days on this and we look forward to the phone call with President Biden and President Macron once its time is fixed on the books.”

The official added that Biden and Macron have a “deep mutual respect” for one another.

France erupted in fury last week over the announcement of the new partnership between the U.S., U.K., and Australia, known as AUKUS, which aims to deliver nuclear-powered submarines to Australia.

France had been seeking its own multibillion-dollar defense agreement with Australia for submarines and was caught flat-footed by the new deal. French officials were given only a few hours advance notice of the new agreement before it was announced on Wednesday.

On Friday, France recalled its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia in protest of the deal, an order that came from Macron.

Psaki said Monday that the U.S. has no plans to abandon the AUKUS agreement in light of the complaints from France.

Biden is scheduled to travel to New York for the United Nations General Assembly on Monday evening and will deliver a speech there on Tuesday morning. Biden is slated to meet with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on the sidelines of the summit before returning to Washington but is not currently scheduled to meet one-on-one with other leaders, including Macron.

When asked why Biden was not meeting with Macron during his two-day appearance at the gathering, the senior administration official told reporters Macron is expected to address the U.N. meeting virtually and will not travel to New York to participate in person.

--Updated at 1:27 p.m.

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