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French envoy to return to US after fence-mending Biden-Macron call

WORLD
By Reuters | September 23rd 2021
French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Joe Biden. [Reuters]

US and French presidents have moved to mend ties, with France agreeing to send its ambassador back to Washington and the White House acknowledging it erred in brokering a deal for Australia to buy US instead of French submarines without consulting Paris.

In a joint statement issued after US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron spoke by telephone for 30 minutes, the two leaders agreed to launch in-depth consultations to rebuild trust and to meet in Europe at the end of October.

They said Washington had committed to stepping up "support to counter-terrorism operations in the Sahel conducted by European states" which US officials suggested meant a continuation of logistical support rather than deploying US special forces.

Biden's call to Macron was an attempt to mend fences after France accused the United States of stabbing it in the back when Australia ditched a $40 billion (Sh4.4 trillion) contract for conventional French submarines and opted for nuclear-powered submarines to be built with US and British technology instead.

Outraged by the US, British and Australian deal, France recalled its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra.

"The two leaders agreed that the situation would have benefited from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners," the joint US and French statement said.

"President Biden conveyed his ongoing commitment in that regard."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, interacting for the first time since the submarine crisis erupted, had a 'good exchange' on the margins of a wider meeting at the United Nations on Wednesday, a senior State Department official told reporters in a call.

Earlier on Wednesday, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki described the call as "friendly" and sounded hopeful about improving ties. "They agreed to meet in October and continue close consultations and work together on a range of issues," she told reporters.   

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