In a bid to bridge the major differences caused after Washington’s oldest ally France was kept out of the new Indo-Pacific security initiative igniting anger from the latter, the Biden administration on Tuesday announced to hold negotiations with the French President Emmanuel Macron.
The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Macron in Paris to explore ways to overcome the rift over the deal, which scuttled a multibillion-dollar French submarine contract with Australia and led Macron’s government to take the unprecedented step of recalling its ambassador to the US.
In a French television interview after the meeting with Macron, Blinken accepted a US share of responsibility for the disagreement. “We could and we should have communicated better,” Blinken said, speaking in French. “We sometimes tend to take for granted a relationship as important and deep as the one that links France and the United States.”
Macron and Blinken explored potential US-French cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and other areas in the roughly 40-minute one-on-one session, according to a senior US State Department official.
The White House later in a statement said that President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, would meet his French counterpart, Emmanuel Bonne, in Paris later this week “as part of our ongoing consultations on shared bilateral and regional interests.”
Macron and Blinken’s meeting was the highest-level in-person contact between the two countries since the controversy erupted last month with the Sept. 15 announcement of a three-way agreement between Australia, Britain, and the U.S., known as AUKUS, that pointedly left out France and other European nations.
The State Department official said the two discussed possible joint projects that could be announced by Macron and President Joe Biden when they meet this month at a specific date and venue that has yet to be decided. Macron and Biden agreed to try to repair the damage in a September 22 phone call.
The White House in a statement said Sullivan and Bonne would further explore those projects in “preparations for the meeting of President Biden and President Macron in Europe later this month.”
Earlier the US officials acknowledged that the AUKUS announcement was handled poorly and could have benefitted from coordination with France and other members of the European Union, all of which were left out. They have also signaled a desire to make amends, although they have suggested France’s rage is an overreaction.
France responded with fury and briefly recalled its ambassadors to Washington and Canberra in an unprecedented display of pique.
French officials called it “a stab in the back” by allies and expressed disappointment that it had happened after Biden had proclaimed “America is back” and pledged to restore and value trans-Atlantic relations that had soured during the Trump administration.