A ministerial meeting of the India-France-Australia trilateral grouping scheduled on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session is now off the table, a fallout of AUKUS — a trilateral security pact between Australia, the UK, and the US that has left France very angry.
The trilateral ministerial would have seen external affairs minister S Jaishankar holding deliberations with his counterparts from Australia (Marise Payne) and France (Jean-Yves Le Drian). But France pulled out on the back of the formation of AUKUS.
France has been fuming ever since the US and the United Kingdom made the surprise announcement about the deal to build nuclear submarines for Australia – thus scuppering a previous French deal to sell conventional submarines.
Top diplomats of France and the United States said on Thursday that patching up bilateral ties will take some time yet, as French discontent still sizzles over the trilateral AUKUS nuclear submarine deal that tore up one of its contracts with Australia.
US secretary of state Anthony Blinken, a fluent French speaker who spent a part of his childhood in Paris, appeared remorseful as he spoke to reporters during the day, and said that he tried making amends with the French side on Washington’s part. Later, a French foreign ministry statement confirmed that the process to repair ties have been initiated but resolving the matter completely will take time and further remedial actions.
French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian earlier accused Australia of back-stabbing and the US of betrayal, calling the move reminiscent of the unilateralist attitude of Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump.
France recalled its ambassadors to the US and Australia in protest, as diplomatic tensions between the allies – key members of the NATO alliance – reached boiling point.
France and US to meet in next month to repair relations
US President Joe Biden and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron will meet next month as the countries work to repair relations following a diplomatic brouhaha that broke out over a security pact with Australia that scuppered a multi-billion dollar submarine contract.
In a joint statement on Wednesday, France and the United States said the two leaders spoke by phone and agreed to meet in Europe at the end of October.
Macron has also agreed to return its ambassador to the US to Washington after the phone call. US press secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden admitted that there could have been more discussion on the issue ahead of the sudden announcement that infuriated France.
France and Australia
While US president Joe Biden held a 30-minute call with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron amid the diplomatic crisis on nuclear-powered submarines deal with Australia, the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, has said Macron is yet to take his calls.
As Morrison landed in the United States for the quad summit between India, Japan, United States, and Australia he was faced with questions about the diplomatic row with France.
The Sydney Morning Herald, on questions about a call with Macron, quoted the Australian prime minister as saying, “Yes, we have and the opportunity for that call is not yet, but we’ll be patient… We understand their disappointment and that is the way that you manage difficult issues.”
It is believed that after the Biden-Macron conversation and public contrition expressed by the US, the US-France relationship may improve soon. Australia though may be made to sweat for a little longer, so it might be a while before this trilateral meet of the major world powers.