The top diplomats of France and the United States said Thursday that repairing ties will take time as Paris demanded action to assuage its anger over the cancellation of a massive submarine contract.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, after days of giving the cold shoulder, met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the allies’ worst crisis in ties since the Iraq war.
“He recalled that a first step had been taken with the call between the two presidents but underlined that resolving the crisis between our two countries would take time and require actions,” a French foreign ministry statement said.
Le Drian accused Australia of back-stabbing and the United States of betrayal, calling the move reminiscent of the unilateralist attitude of Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump.
He voiced his personal respect for Le Drian and, reiterating a White House statement, said that the episode would have “benefited from open consultations among allies.”
Blinken vowed to work to rebuild trust with France, America’s oldest ally, and pointed to shared interests including in the French campaign against the Islamic State extremist group.
Blinken said he would keep up talks with Le Drian, much as Biden agreed to meet late next month with Macron.
Macron agreed to return the French ambassador who was pulled from Washington as a protest but has shown no sign France will soon send back its envoy to Canberra.
Australia became only the second nation after Britain to gain access to US nuclear submarine technology and announced a new three-way alliance with Washington and London.
Other European nations including Germany voiced solidarity with France, saying that the US move went counter to Biden’s push for closer relations with allies.
Biden on Friday holds a first-ever four-way summit in Washington with the prime ministers of Australia, India and Japan.