U.S. President Joe Biden spoke for the first time Wednesday with French President Emmanuel Macron since diplomatic crisis erupted over a deal to equip Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.
A joint statement between the United States and France after the 30-minute call said the two leaders “agreed that the situation would have benefitted from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners.”
“President Biden conveyed his ongoing commitment in that regard,” the statement said.
The American President appeared to acknowledge missteps in how the United States approached the talks. In their call, the two president agreed to meet in person at the end of next month in Europe.
“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 statement read.
In addition, Biden voiced support for “the importance of a stronger and more capable European defense,” a longtime priority for Macron.
On his part, Macron also agreed to return his ambassador to Washington after recalling him for consultations in Paris.
He had mostly withheld comment publicly on the dispute, waiting to air his rage directly to Biden. However, other officials in his government have spared nothing in describing France’s shock and fury at the submarine agreement, which deprived France of a major contract of its own and left Paris feeling excluded and diminished.
The talks were expected to be tense, though the White House said afterward the tone was “friendly” between them.
In the same vein, Press secretary Jen Psaki said it was important for Biden to directly convey his belief that “there could have been more of a discussion” ahead of the submarine announcement. She stopped short of saying Biden apologized for what transpired.
Psaki said the White House would look to identify how the breakdown occurred, but avoided saying the president blamed any individual for what transpired.
“He holds himself responsible,” she said. “Certainly, though, he has a responsibility to talk to his team always about how we can best manage our diplomatic relationships and that’s what he does in any scenario.”