French ambassador to return to Washington after Macron and Biden vow to ease tensions

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Paris will send its ambassador back to Washington next week after French President Emmanuel Macron and President Joe Biden addressed their submarine dispute in a phone call on Wednesday.

"President Emmanuel Macron has decided that the French Ambassador will return to Washington next week. He will then start intensive work with senior US officials," the Elysee and the White House said in a joint statement.

In an unprecedented move, France recalled its ambassadors to Washington and Canberra on Friday after the US, Australia and Britain announced a new security pact last week.

Under the deal, Australia will cancel a multibillion-dollar contract to buy diesel-electric French submarines and acquire US nuclear-powered vessels instead.

Both heads of state “have decided to open a process of in-depth consultations, aimed at creating the conditions for ensuring confidence,” the Elysee and the White House said.

Biden and Macron "will meet in Europe at the end of October in order to reach shared understandings and maintain momentum in this process," the statement went on.

In what could appear as a mea culpa from Washington, Biden 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 statement said.

A decision has yet to be made about the French ambassador to Canberra, a source at the Elysee said on Wednesday and no call is so far scheduled between Macron and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Morrison welcomed the communication between Biden and Macron, telling reporters from Washington: "I'm glad that call took place, I'm glad that he (President Biden) was able to reinforce, not just from the United States' perspective, but from all partners in this new arrangement that we very much want to see, not only France, but all the nations of Europe, our like-minded nations in Europe, playing a very important role in the Indo-Pacific."

"I look forward and when the time is right and when the opportunity presents that we (with Macron) will have a similar discussion. But the nature of the issues that we're dealing with are different, of course.

"Australia decided not to proceed with a very significant defence contract. And understandably, we know that France is disappointed about that. I think those issues will take further time to work through than the ones that were being dealt with between the United States and France," he added.

Earlier on Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson mocked French anger over the submarine deal, saying French officials should “get a grip.” Using both French and English words, he added they should give him a "break."

France’s European Union partners agreed on Tuesday to put the dispute at the top of the bloc’s political agenda, including at an EU summit next month.

The French presidency categorically denied a report by Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper published on Wednesday saying Macron could offer the country’s permanent seat at the UN Security Council to the European Union if the bloc backs his plans on EU defence.

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