ROME: US President Joe Biden told his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Friday that his country was “clumsy” in securing a submarines deal with Australia behind France’s back.
“We have no better ally than France,” Biden said in the first meeting with Macron since the row erupted last month. “What happened was, to use an English phrase, what we did was clumsy, it was not done with a lot of grace,” Biden told journalists after the meeting in Rome.”I was under the impression that France had been informed long before, that the (French) deal was not going through,” he said.
Biden called France an “extremely, extremely valued partner… and a power in itself” with the “same values” as the United States. A diplomatic row erupted last month after Australia pulled out of a multibillion-dollar submarines deal with France in favour of an alternative one with the United States and Britain. An enraged French government called secret talks leading up to the cancellation “a stab in the back”, and Macron recalled his ambassadors from Washington and Canberra.
Australia announced the subs pact as it joined a new alliance with Britain and the United States, dubbed AUKUS, one of a series of initiatives by Biden who views countering China as the paramount concern of the United States.The French, who lost out on more than $60 billion from the submarine deal, have argued that the Biden administration at the highest levels misled them about the talks with Australia and even levied criticism that Biden was adopting the tactics of his bombastic predecessor, Donald Trump.
The row challenged Biden’s carefully honed image of working to stabilize and strengthen the trans-Atlantic alliance after Trump’s presidency, as France for the first time in some 250 years of diplomatic relations pulled its ambassador to the US in protest.
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