PARIS (AP) â€” French President Emmanuel Macron will speak in the coming days with President Joe Biden in their first contact since a major diplomatic crisis erupted between France and the United States over a submarine deal with Australia, an official said Sunday.
The phone call is at the request of Biden, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said, adding that there was â€œshockâ€ and â€œangerâ€ at first in France over news of the deal. But now itâ€™s time to try to move forward, he said.
What the French now call a â€œgrave crisisâ€ erupted over the sudden, surprise end to a 2016 contract worth at least $66 billion between France and Australia to build 12 conventional diesel-electric submarines. Instead, Australia signed on with the United States and Britain for eight nuclear-powered submarines. France insists it was not informed of the deal in advance.
France recalled its ambassadors from the United States and Australia in a sign of the seriousness of the crisis.
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian met Sunday with the two ambassadors to discuss â€œthe strategic consequences of the current crisis,â€ the ministry said without elaborating.
â€œWhatâ€™s at play in this affair, this crisis â€¦ are strategic issues before being commercial issues,â€ Attal told BFMTV. â€œThe question is … the forces present, the balance, in the Indo-Pacific where part of our future is at play, and our relations with China.â€
The deal by the United States reflects the American pivot toward the Indo-Pacific region, seen as increasingly strategic as China bolsters its influence there. Yet France feels the deal steps on its feet in a region where it has long had a strong presence that it, too, is working to bolster, in addition to a five-year contract with Australia.
â€œFrance is a country of the Indo-Pacific,â€ Attal said, noting the French territory of New Caledonia, the French citizens living in the region and the French military forces based there.
The Indo-Pacific is also an issue for Europe, he said.
Macron will be seeking explanations from Biden about what led to a â€œmajor rupture in confidence,â€ the spokesman added. â€œThere was a moment of shock, of anger … Now, we must advance.â€
On Friday night, Le Drian railed against what France views as a betrayal marked by â€œduplicity, disdain and liesâ€ in the submarine affair.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Sunday that France â€œwould have had every reason to know that we have deep and grave concernsâ€ about the capability of Franceâ€™s Attack class subs, which he said canâ€™t meet Australiaâ€™s strategic interests.
Calling all HuffPost superfans!
Sign up for membership to become a founding member and help shape HuffPost’s next chapter