US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed that a deal to supply Australia with a fleet of eight nuclear submarines "would have benefitted" from greater openness.
The agreement, made public Sept. 15 as the US, UK, and Australia announced a new Indo-Pacific security pact, riled France and prompted Paris to recall its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra in a major diplomatic row between allies.
France previously agreed to sell Australia a fleet of French-built conventionally-powered submarines in what was a multi-billion dollar deal. But that sale was scrapped by the Australian government in preference for the US and UK purchase.
During a much-anticipated telephone call requested by Biden, he and Macron "agreed that the situation would have benefitted from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners," the nations said in a joint statement.
"The two leaders have decided to open a process of in-depth consultations, aimed at creating the conditions for ensuring confidence and proposing concrete measures toward common objectives," the US and France said, further noting Biden will meet Macron in Europe at October's end "to reach shared understandings and maintain momentum in this process."
"President Biden reaffirms the strategic importance of French and European engagement in the Indo-Pacific region, including in the framework of the European Union’s recently published strategy for the Indo-Pacific," the statement added.
France will return its ambassador to the US next week./agencies