PARIS: France said on Friday it had decided to recall its ambassadors in the United States and Australia for consultations after Australia struck a deal with the United States and Britain which ended a $40 billion agreement to purchase French-designed submarines.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement that the rare decision taken by President Emmanuel Macron was made due to the seriousness of the event.
The US State Department and White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Earlier on Friday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected French criticism that it had not been warned, saying he had raised the possibility in talks with the French president in June that Australia might scrap the 2016 submarine deal with a French company. On Thursday, Australia said it would scrap the $40 billion deal with France’s Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines and would instead build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with US and British technology after striking a trilateral security partnership.
Le Drian described the decision as a stab in the back.
Morrison acknowledged the damage to Australia-France ties, but insisted he had told French President Emmanuel Macron in June that Australia had revised its thinking on the deal.
“I made it very clear, we had a lengthy dinner there in Paris, about our very significant concerns about the capabilities of conventional submarines to deal with the new strategic environment we’re faced with,” Morrison told 5aa Radio.
“I made it very clear that this was a matter that Australia would need to make a decision on in our national interest,” he said. Strained Australia-French ties come as the United States and its allies seek additional support in the Asia and the Pacific amid concern about the rising influence of a more assertive China.
Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2021