Biden seeks phone call with Macron amid submarine deal row

BRUSSELS, July 1, 2019 (Xinhua) — French President Emmanuel Macron arrives for the special summit of the European Council in Brussels, Belgium, on June 30, 2019. Leaders of the European Union’s 28 member states started gathering on Sunday afternoon to decide on top positions for the bloc. (Xinhua/Zhang Cheng/IANS)

Washington, Sep 21 (IANS) US President Joe Biden is seeking to hold a phone conversation with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in an effort to reduce tensions caused by a controversial submarine deal, according to officials in Washington.

A diplomatic rift emerged between Washington and Paris over the announcement that the US and the UK will support Australia to develop nuclear-powered submarines, depriving France of a contract to provide conventional submarines to Canberra, reports Xinhua news agency.

Outraged by the abrupt move without notice, France recalled its ambassadors to the US and Australia for consultations on September 17.

“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 US alliance with France,” a senior administration official told reporters at a briefing on Monday.

“We understand the French position, we don’t share their view in terms of how this all developed,” said the official.

“We think that will be an important moment and opportunity for the two leaders to speak directly with one another.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in another briefing later Monday that the call would take place “in the coming days”, while noting officials are still working on scheduling it.

Under the new security partnership unveiled on September 15 between Australia, the UK, and the US, known as AUKUS, Canberra will build nuclear-powered submarines with American and British technology.

A day later, Australia announced it would scrap the deal with France signed in 2016 to purchase 12 conventional diesel-electric submarines.

French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian has called the trilateral move a “stab in the back”.

“We had established a relationship of trust with Australia. This trust has been betrayed,” he said.

“The American behaviour worries me; this unilateral and brutal decision is very similar to what Mr. (Donald) Trump was doing,” he added.

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