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Published: 12:52, September 21, 2021 | Updated: 14:06, September 21, 2021
EU backs France in submarine dispute, asking: Is America back?
By Reuters
Published:12:52, September 21, 2021 Updated:14:06, September 21, 2021 By Reuters

Flags of the European Union flutter in front of the headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, on March 10, 2021. (ARMANDO BABANI / AFP)

UNITED NATIONS - European Union foreign ministers expressed support and solidarity with France on Monday during a meeting in New York to discuss Australia's scrapping of a US$40 billion submarine order with Paris in favor of a US and British deal.

Speaking after the closed-door meeting on the sidelines annual UN gathering of world leaders, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said "more cooperation, more coordination, less fragmentation" was needed to achieve a stable and peaceful Indo-Pacific region.

Australia said last week it would cancel an order for conventional submarines from France and instead build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with US and British technology after striking a security partnership with those countries under the name AUKUS.

We (France and the US) are allies, we talk and don't hide elaborate different strategies. That's why there is a crisis in confidence ... So all that needs clarifications and explanations. It may take time.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Foreign Minister

"Certainly, we were caught by surprise by this announcement," Borrell said.

The decision enraged France and earlier on Monday in New York French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian accused US President Joe Biden's administration of continuing his predecessor Donald Trump's trends of "unilateralism, unpredictability, brutality and not respecting your partner."

ALSO READ: US, Britain, Australia announce new security partnership

The United States has sought to assuage the anger in France, a NATO ally. French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Joe Biden are due to speak on the phone in the next few days.

"We are allies, we talk and don't hide elaborate different strategies. That's why there is a crisis in confidence," Le Drian said. "So all that needs clarifications and explanations. It may take time."

Why? Because with the new Joe Biden administration, America is back. This was the historic message sent by this new administration and now we have questions. What does it mean - America is back? Is America back in America or somewhere else? We don't know.

Charles Michel, European Council President

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday that she expected Biden to "reaffirm our commitment to working with one of our oldest and closest partners on a range of challenges that the global community is facing" when he speaks with Macron.

It is not clear if the dispute will have implications for the next round of EU-Australia trade talks, scheduled for Oct 12. Borrell met with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne in New York on Monday.

European Council President Charles Michel said that he found it difficult to understand the move by Australia, Britain and the United States.

READ MORE: Morrison: France told about possibility of scrapping sub deal

"Why? Because with the new Joe Biden administration, America is back. This was the historic message sent by this new administration and now we have questions. What does it mean - America is back? Is America back in America or somewhere else? We don't know," he told reporters in New York.

Top officials from the United States and European Union are due to meet in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, later this month for the inaugural meeting of the newly established US-EU Trade and Technology Council, but Michel said some EU members were pushing for this to be postponed.

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