France is to return its ambassador to the US who was recalled in the aftermath of the surprise announcement of the Australia-US-UK defence pact that saw France lose a multi-billion euro submarine contract.
It followed the first call between the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and Joe Biden after relations between the western allies hit a low last week.
The two leaders are also to meet next month after their phone call in which Biden agreed that consulting France before announcing the Aukus security pact could have prevented a diplomatic row, said Macron’s office in a statement.
The central part of the Aukus pact is the requirement for Australia to cancel its contract to buy 12 French barracuda submarines with diesel-electric propulsion. America will instead partner with Australia and the UK to build nuclear-powered submarines.
The French government spokesperson before the call sit ould be a chance to clarify the way in which this announcement was made and how the US could re-engage in its relationship with an ally.
“We expect our allies to acknowledge that the exchanges and consultations that should have taken place did not, and that this poses a question about confidence, which all of us need to draw conclusions about now.”
France last week said it had been stabbed in the back by the US and described Biden’s treatment of his European partners as reminiscent of Donald Trump.
Biden, who promised relentless diplomacy in his speech to the UN general assembly on Tuesday, has been seeking to speak to Macron since the weekend. On Friday, the Élysée withdrew its ambassadors to Washington and Canberra for consultation, in a signal of deep anger over the month-long secrecy surrounding the security pact.
France feels the move not only deprives it of a valuable defence contract, but undercuts the main pillar of its carefully established Indo-Pacific strategy. The secrecy with which the US negotiated the alternative deal for nuclear-propelled submarines has left France shocked, but also strengthened the hand of those that insist the EU must rely on itself more for its own defence and security.
There has been no let-up in the French anger that has extended to threatening to delay an EU-US trade deal.
Washington seems to have been taken aback by France’s fury, but knows it needs to find a way to contain a row that risks damaging Biden’s reputation in Europe.
Catching the tone of anger in France, Bernard Guetta, a Macronist MEP, described Biden’s sidelining of France as “a blunder, amounting to a strategic blindness that will only benefit the Chinese”.
A meeting between foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the UN security council, organised by the UK, is due to go ahead.
The meeting, likely to focus on Afghanistan and humanitarian aid, will be the first chance for Liz Truss, the UK foreign secretary, to meet Le Drian since her appointment and the security row broke out.
The French government also issued a statement denying a front-page report in the Daily Telegraph suggesting Macron was discussing giving up France’s seat on the UN security council to the EU.
In denying the report, the French government described the Telegraph, a paper that UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, used to write for, as an “English tabloid”.
Additional reporting by Angelique Chrisafis in ParisInternet Explorer Channel Network