Australian Submarine Rift: Macron, Biden to meet in person in Rome

US president Joe Biden and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, will meet in Rome ahead of the G20 summit on Friday as they seek to mend relations following the Australian submarine crisis.

The meeting between Biden and Macron at the French embassy is their first in-person opportunity to mend the diplomatic rift opened last month by the announcement of an Australia-UK-US security pact in the Indo-Pacific.

Paris reacted angrily at the AUKUS partnership and the announcement that its main component will result in Canberra scrapping a multi-billion deal for French-designed submarines in favour of technology from the US and UK.

“It’s a stab in the back,” FM Jean-Yves Le Drian said, adding: “This unilateral, brutal, unpredictable decision is very similar to what Mr. Trump used to do.”

Washington was visibly surprised by the very strong French reaction and criticism that it was not consulted despite its deal with Australia and the fact it is the only European country to have territories in the region.

A disgruntled Macron waited a week before speaking with Joe Biden, a telephone discussion that helped trigger a détente. The two leaders then launched a “process of in-depth consultations” to restore the hard-won trust between the two allies.

The aim of their tête-à-tête on Friday is to “demonstrate that we have been able to negotiate together significant elements of cooperation” which “allow us to frame the Franco-American relationship for the future,” an adviser to the French President said.

According to Pierre Morcos, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, “AUKUS will leave its mark” but “both countries seem eager to move forward and turn this diplomatic crisis into an opportunity to strengthen the bilateral partnership and rebalance transatlantic ties”.


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