Europe

Australia regrets recall of French ambassador over submarine deal

Australia Saturday regretted the French decision to recall its ambassador in Canberra in an apparent reaction to defense agreement with the United States and the United Kingdom.

The trilateral military agreement effectively scrapped a multibillion-dollar contract Australia had signed for French submarines.

An Australian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said the decision to cancel the deal “was taken in accordance with our clear and communicated national security interests.”

“Australia values its relationship with France, which is an important partner and a vital contributor to stability, particularly in the Indo-Pacific. This will not change,” the spokesperson said, as quoted by the ABC News portal.

“We look forward to engaging with France again on our many issues of shared interest, based on shared values.”

Ties between Australia and France deteriorated Wednesday after the US, the UK, and Australia announced a defense cooperation pact in the backdrop of growing Chinese expansionism in the Indo-Pacific region.

As per the agreement, Australia is likely to purchase US nuclear-powered submarines.

In an interview with ABC on Friday, French ambassador to Australia Jean-Pierre Thebault said he only learned of the Australian decision to end the contract with the French Naval Group through media reports.

The two countries signed the contract in 2016 for building conventional submarines.

“We were deliberately kept in the black,” Thebault said.

He said it was a breach of trust between the two countries.

“Is it possible that you ignore, you do not even mention, you even refuse to discuss with a trusted partner like France about such an issue?” he said.

However, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday he told French President Emmanuel Macron in June about his doubts on the suitability of French submarines.

“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 are faced with,” he said in a radio interview. EFE

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