AUKUS | France recalls Ambassadors to U.S., Australia over submarine deal

French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. File   | Photo Credit: AFP

France said late on September 17 it was immediately recalling its Ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after Australia scrapped a big French conventional submarine purchase in favour of nuclear subs built with U.S. technology.

Also read: News Analysis | AUKUS seeks to reshape Indo-Pacific ties

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a written statement that the French decision, on request from President Emmanuel Macron, “is justified by the exceptional seriousness of the announcements” made by Australia and the United States.

He said Wednesday’s announcement of Australia’s submarine deal with the U.S. is “unacceptable behaviour between allies and partners”.

On Saturday, Australia said it was noting with regret France's recall of its ambassador over the surprise cancellation of a submarine contract in favour of a U.S. deal.

Earlier on September 17, a top French diplomat spoke of a “crisis” in relations with the U.S.

The diplomat, who spoke anonymously in line with customary government practice, said that for Paris “this is a strategic question concerning the very nature of the relationship between Europe and the United States about the Indo-Pacific strategy”.

Also read: India was informed of AUKUS: Australian envoy

He would not speculate on the effects the situation would have on France’s relationship with the U.S. “There’s a crisis,” he stressed.

Mr. Macron has not commented on the issue since President Joe Biden’s announcement of a strategic Indo-Pacific alliance with Australia and Britain, leading France to lose a nearly $100 billion deal to build diesel-electric submarines.

France has pushed for several years for a European strategy for boosting economic, political and defence ties in the region stretching from India and China to Japan and New Zealand. The EU unveiled this week its plan for the Indo-Pacific.

The French diplomat said on Friday that Mr. Macron received a letter from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday morning announcing the decision to cancel the submarine deal.

French officials then decided to reach out to the U.S. administration “to ask what was going on”, he said. He added that discussions with Washington took place just two to three hours before Mr. Biden’s public announcement.

Mr. Le Drian on September 16 expressed “total incomprehension” at the move and criticised both Australia and the U.S.

“It was really a stab in the back. We built a relationship of trust with Australia, and this trust was betrayed,” he said. “This is not done between allies.”

He also compared Mr. Biden’s move to those of his predecessor, Donald Trump, under Mr. Trump’s “America First” doctrine.

Paris had raised the issue of the Indo-Pacific strategy during the June 25 visit to Paris of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, expressing the importance of its submarine programme with Australia, the diplomat said.

“We said that is was for us a very important and critical component in our Indo-Pacific strategy,” he said. Mr. Blinken met with Mr. Macron during the visit.

The French diplomat said Australia never mentioned to France before its will to shift to nuclear-powered submarines, including during a meeting between Mr. Macron and Mr. Morrison in Paris on June 15.

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2021 2:05:35 PM |

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