By Kate Sullivan, Kevin Liptak and Arlette Saenz, CNN
President Joe Biden will speak with French President Emmanuel Macron “in the coming days” and reaffirm the US’ commitment to working with France on a range of global issues amid the worst diplomatic spat between the two nations in years.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday that White House is still working on scheduling the call. The planned call comes after France recalled its ambassador to the US in response to the recently announced national security partnership between the US, United Kingdom and Australia.
“What I expect the President will do on that call is reaffirm our commitment to working with one of our oldest and closest partners on a range of challenges that the global community is facing. And he, of course, will discuss recent developments and our ongoing work together on a range of issues, certainly our shared interest in the Indo-Pacific but also a range of global challenges and issues,” Psaki said.
The French government said last week that it felt betrayed when Australia pulled out of their existing multi-billion dollar defense deal, agreeing instead to attain nuclear-powered submarines through a new deal with the United States and the United Kingdom.
The effort to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines — a major step toward countering China as Biden works to build international backing for his approach to Beijing — is part of a new trilateral partnership among the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, dubbed “AUKUS.”
France stands to lose the equivalent of $65 billion US dollars from an existing deal to provide Australia with conventional, diesel-powered submarines. The canceled deal is expected to make a significant economic impact on the French defense sector. France also stands to lose out strategically in the Indo-Pacific, where the country holds significant interests. On Thursday, after the nuclear-powered submarine deal with the US and the UK was announced, Australia formally announced it would be withdrawing from its previous contract for conventional submarines with France.
A day later, Macron recalled his ambassadors to Washington and Canberra, believed to be the first time the French have resorted to such a move in modern times.
In light of that move, Biden wants to speak soon with Macron about the “way forward,” a senior administration official said earlier Monday.
“We understand the French position,” the official said. “We don’t share their view in terms of how this all developed.”
Biden is currently not expected to speak with Macron on Monday, a White House official said.
The call, which is not yet formally on the books, will come at Biden’s request. He “wants to communicate his desire to work closely with France in the Indo-Pacific and globally and to talk about specific practical measures we can undertake together,” the official told reporters Monday. The call will be an “important moment,” the official said, for Biden and Macron to “speak directly to one another” and “chart a productive path forward.”
In the briefing Monday, Psaki said Monday there were no plans to abandon the deal and pointed to remarks from Biden, during which the President acknowledged in remarks last week “that Francis is a substantial Indo-Pacific presence, and is a key partner and ally in strengthening security and prosperity.”
“But most importantly, we continue to look forward to our close alliance with France, one of our strongest partnerships as we work to address a range of issues in the world,” Psaki said.
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CNN’s Maegan Vazquez contributed to this report.