France to Return Ambassador to Washington Next Week After Macron-Biden Phone Call on AUKUS Spat
16:20 GMT 22.09.2021 (Updated: 17:37 GMT 22.09.2021)
Last week, France recalled its ambassador to the United States for the first time since relations were established in the 1778, after the US, the UK and Australia announced a new trilateral alliance known as AUKUS. The pact promised Canberra nuclear submarine technology, scuttling a $65 billion submarine contract the country had with France.
French Ambassador to the US Philippe Etienne will return to Washington next week following a telephone call between US President Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron of France, the White House announced Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, a White House spokesperson said the two leaders had agreed to meet at the end of October, with the meeting to take place in Europe.
The spokesperson further indicated that Biden and Macron agreed that last week's announcement of a new US-UK-Australian security pact would have benefited from "open consultations among allies."
Elysee Palace confirmed in a statement that its envoy would be returning to Washington, and said that the French president and the US leader had agreed to 'in-depth consultations' aimed 'rebuilding trust' between the two NATO allies.
Wednesday's announcement by the White House and France's presidential office came just hours after Defence Minister Florence Parly said that some alliance members had agreed to revise the alliance's strategic concept.
"The reason for NATO's existence is transatlantic security. This is what we want to remind the United States of. Therefore, our partners decided, on our initiative, as well as on the initiative of Germany, to revise the strategic concept of the alliance," Parley said, speaking at a meeting of the French Senate on Wednesday.
The defence minister said the new concept would be discussed at the upcoming summit of the alliance in Madrid. "Being allies does not mean being hostage to the interests of another country," she stressed.
France withdrew its ambassadors to the US and Australia following the 15 September announcement by Washington, Canberra and London that the three countries would be forming a new security bloc known as AUKUS. In addition to measures related to AI, cyberwarfare and the possible stationing of more US troops and naval capabilities in Australia, the pact will enable Canberra to build a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines in Australian shipyards using American and British reactor technology.
France dubbed the surprise agreement, which was not discussed by the US, the UK and Australia with their other allies and partners beforehand, as a "stab in the back," calling the three countries' behaviour "unacceptable," scrapping a planned Anglo-French defence summit and threatening to torpedo the Australian-EU free trade deal.
France had its own $65 billion agreement with Australia for the purchase of 12 French attack submarines, and has accused Canberra of deliberately leading Paris on while secretely negotiating the AUKUS pact with the US and Britain.
The announcement of the pact and the cancellation of the sub sale sparked outrage among French society, with some high-profile opposition politicians suggesting it was time for Paris to consider withdrawing from NATO altogether over the perceived slap in the face.
Other allies of AUKUS's members also felt slighted, with government sources telling Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper that Ottawa had been made to feel the "weak sister"
in the so-called Five Eyes alliance after being excluded.
Washington's potential adversaries, including Russia, China and North Korea, blasted the creation of AUKUS for another reason - expressing concerns that the new security agreement could destabilize the Asia-Pacific region and spark a new regional arms race.