Macron meets Blinken for first talks after submarine row

French President Emmanuel Macron held talks here with visiting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday, three weeks after an unprecedented crisis between the two countries sparked by Australia’s decision to scrap a submarine deal with France.

The “at length, face-to-face meeting” between Macron and Blinken, which lasted about 40 minutes according to French media, should “help restore confidence” between the two countries, the Elysee said in a statement, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Earlier on Tuesday, Blinken also met with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian. They chose not to hold a joint press conference. The objective of their “in-depth exchange” was to “identify the steps that may allow a return of confidence between our two countries,” the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

France is “still angry” and “reserved,” its reception for Blinken has been “distant,” while Washington, “which publicly made amends after the Australian submarine crisis, said nothing more and promised to seek ‘concrete action’ to seal reconciliation,” Agence-France Presse reported.

France was infuriated when Australia, the US and Britain announced a security partnership known as AUKUS on September 15, whose first initiative is the delivery of a nuclear-powered submarine fleet to Australia by the latter two countries despite the Australian government’s multibillion-dollar 2016 contract to buy diesel-electric submarines from France.

Le Drian condemned the trilateral move with harsh words, such as “lying,” “betrayal” and “backstabbing.” Macron recalled France’s ambassadors from Washington and Canberra.

France has never been consulted or notified in advance of the AUKUS deal, Le Drian told a Senate hearing last Wednesday. The crisis “has not ended only because the dialogue has resumed,” he said. “It will continue. And in order to get out of it, serious actions will be needed, not words.”