The comment came during a closely-watched meeting with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, in Rome, meant to repair fractured ties after a rift over an agreement to provide Australia with submarines. “I was under the impression that France had been informed long before that the deal was not going through, honest to God,” said President Biden as he met with his counterpart in the French Embassy at the Holy See in the Vatican.
Last month, the US, the United Kingdom and Australia announced a new partnership that includes providing assistance to help Australia develop nuclear-powered submarines — a deal France says was made without its knowledge, jeopardizing an existing contract worth billions to provide Australia with diesel-powered submarines.
The rift escalated to the rare point that France temporarily recalled its US ambassador, and even Biden was caught off-guard by how furious French officials became over the matter.
“I think what happened — to use an English phrase — what we did was clumsy,” Mr Biden continued. “It was not done with a lot of grace. I was under the impression that certain things had happened that had not happened.”
It was a striking admission of a foreign policy misstep for a President with decades of experience in that arena.
Taking to Twitter, SBS Chief International Correspondent, Ben Lewis said: “Biden and Macron shaking hands- Macron talking about new beginnings… The US seems out of the doghouse… but Australia and UK, not so much.”
But some in the US, the Biden apology was too much to take, with many labelling the Commander in Chief as weak.
Roverchuck, also taking to Twitter said: “Please fly him home back to the basement. It’s bad enough we are living through his policies but now he’s embarrassing our country on the world stage.”
The comments reflect the ongoing bitter dispute over fishing rights between Paris and London and the notion that France would ‘review’ its diplomatic ties with Australia closely in the future, suggesting that all has not been forgotten by Paris just yet.
Mr Biden called France “an extremely valued partner and a power in and of itself.”
“There’s too much we have done together, suffered together, celebrated together and value together for anything to be able to break this up. We’re at one of those inflection points in world history. Things are changing. Pieces of the board are moving,” he added.
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When Mr Macron was asked if he was satisfied that the relations with the United States had been repaired, he told reporters, “We clarified together what we had to clarify.”
“Now what’s important is to be sure that such a situation will not be possible for our future,” he added.
A senior administration official that briefed reporters after the meeting said Macron did not make any additional requests of the President during the meeting.
“President Macron didn’t really make any asks in this session because we had worked through, over the course of the last few weeks, a common agenda, a blueprint, a roadmap for the work that US and France will do together going forward,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
A joint statement issued by officials from both the US and France afterwards was similarly optimistic.
“President’s Biden and Macron underscore the strength of the longstanding and historic relationship between the United States and France, underpinned by our shared democratic values, economic ties, and defence and security cooperation.”
“The President’s also reiterate a shared commitment to adapt and modernize our transatlantic alliance and partnership in light of global trends and in line with the depth of our bonds, common values, and shared interests,” ended the statement as both parties now prepare for more the more global challenge of climate change at the COP26 meeting in Glasgow.