France still upset with US over submarine snub. Patching up will take time
Top diplomats of France and the United States said on Thursday that patching up bilateral ties will take some time yet, as French discontent still sizzles over the trilateral AUKUS nuclear submarine deal that tore up one of its contracts with Australia. US secretary of state Anthony Blinken, a fluent French speaker who spent a part of his childhood in Paris, appeared remorseful as he spoke to reporters during the day, and said that he tried making amends with the French side on Washington's part. Later, a French foreign ministry statement confirmed that the process to repair ties have been initiated but resolving the matter completely will take time and further remedial actions.
The development comes days after US president Joe Biden held a phone call with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and discussed the crisis between the two countries – a “friendly” conversation which had the two leaders, according to the White House, vowing to launch “in-depth consultations... for ensuring confidence” and to meet in Europe at the end of October.
For context, France has been fuming ever since the US and the United Kingdom made the surprise announcement about the deal to build nuclear submarines for Australia – thus scuppering a previous French deal to sell conventional submarines. Paris called the US-Australian plan, which was launched as part of a new Indo-Pacific security group along with Britain, a stab in the back and also pulled its ambassador from Australia.
French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian earlier accused Australia of back-stabbing and the US of betrayal, calling the move reminiscent of the unilateralist attitude of Biden's predecessor Donald Trump.
However, in what comes as a positive development for both sides, Le Drian met US secretary of state Anthony Blinken on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Thursday, days after he gave the US the cold shoulder. “He recalled that a first step had been taken with the call between the two presidents but underlined that resolving the crisis between our two countries would take time and require actions,” a French foreign ministry statement said.
Blinken, in turn, said he would keep up talks with Le Drian, much as Biden agreed to meet late next month with Macron. He also promised to work closely with France in the US strategy toward the Indo-Pacific, seen by the Biden administration as the paramount priority amid the growing assertiveness of China.
(With inputs from AFP)