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April 13, 2023
France has recalled its ambassadors to the US and Australia in protest at a security pact that lost them a submarine deal worth billions of pounds.
French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Australia’s cancellation of a contract to buy conventional French submarines in favour of nuclear-powered ones built with US and British technology was unacceptable, adding that the “exceptional decision” to recall ambassadors was justified by the situation’s “exceptional gravity.”
Boris Johnson, US president Joe Biden and Australia’s Scott Morrison announced the new AUKUS defence alliance between the UK, US and Australia on Wednesday, extending US nuclear submarine technology to Australia as well as cyber defence, artificial intelligence and undersea capabilities. The agreement angered France because the new deal replaces its own contract to supply diesel-electric submarines to Australia, worth £48 billion when signed in 2016.
Mr Macron received a letter from Scott Morrison, the Australian Prime Minister, on Wednesday morning announcing the decision to cancel the submarine deal, a French diplomat said according to The Telegraph. French officials then contacted the US administration “to ask what was going on,” the diplomat said, and that discussions with Washington took place just two to three hours before the public announcement.
On Thursday Mr Le Drian described the pact between the US, Australia and Britain as a “stab in the back.” A White House official said the US regretted France’s decision and would be engaged with France in the coming days to resolve their differences. Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she understood the “disappointment” in France and hoped to work with the country to ensure it understood “the value we place on the bilateral relationship.”
Clement Beaune, France’s European affairs minister said: “I don’t see how we can trust our Australian partners.” France has also called off a gala at its ambassador’s house in Washington DC, which had been scheduled for Friday. France has not recalled its ambassador to the UK.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: WALL STREET JOURNAL