Ahead of President Biden’s meeting in Rome with French President Emmanuel Macron this week, French Ambassador to the United States Philippe Etienne said the countries “are rebuilding trust” after a militarysank French-U.S. relations to their lowest point in recent memory.
After announcing a new security program between the U.S., U.K., and Australian government known as AUKUS, Australia nullified a multibillion-dollar submarine agreement with France and agreed to buy nuclear-powered submarines built with U.S. technology. In response, Macron recalled France’s ambassadors to both the U.S. and Australia for what Etienne called “consultations” on how to move forward with the longtime allies.
“It was not only about the fact of recalling me, but also of thinking of thinking about what had happened, but also and now more importantly, about how we could rebuild the relationship[s],” Etienne told Chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett for this week’s episode of The Takeout. “We had to look at the way ahead and not to remain on what had happened.”
Etienne said France’s main objection was that there was “no consultation, no information [shared] between allies” before the deal was announced.
“It goes in two directions. We must also accept to consult each other when we feel that there is something important for the core security interests of the [countries],” Etienne said, adding that France has specific national security interests in the Indo-Pacific region and about 2 million French citizens living there it seeks to protect. “We should do that and not be taken by surprise as we were by the decision by Australia and in that case the United States.”
Asked about the French government’s position on the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan, Etienne said that the Taliban must meet key benchmarks to be recognized internationally. The criteria, Etienne said, includes being an inclusive government, allowing safe travel out of the country, and passing along humanitarian aid to the citizens of the country.
“The new Taliban government cannot be described as really inclusive…the signs are not encouraging,” Etienne said.
Arden Farhi contributed reporting.
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