The French are angered by Australia’s decision to breach the two countries’ agreement to build French submarines for a settlement with the United States instead. The country has recalled its ambassadors from Canberra and Washington and accuses the Australian government of supporting its ally.
“There were lies, lies and violations of promise and contempt,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a television interview with France 2 on Saturday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he understands the French government’s disappointment, but says he spoke of his doubts about the deal with France several months ago, as did many of his ministers.
“They had every reason to believe that we had serious concerns that the capability that could be delivered with their attack submarines was not up to our strategic interests, and we were very clear that we would make decisions based on the best interest of the nation,” he said. He said during a press conference on Sunday.
The nation’s interest
It was also “negligent” to remain in the agreement with France in violation of advice the government received from intelligence and defense – and it was also against the country’s interests, he said.
I do not regret putting Australia’s interests first. I would never do that, says Morrison.
The country’s Defense Minister Peter Dutton also said in an interview with Sky News Australia on Sunday that his government had been “clear, open and honest” with Paris about its concerns about the submarine agreement, which was over budget and several years late.
Dutton said he had personally expressed his skepticism to his French counterpart, Florence Parly, stressing that Australia needed to act “in the interest of the nation”, which is to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.
“Given the changing conditions in the Indo-Pacific, not only now but also in the years to come, we needed to make a decision that was in the best interests of the nation, which is exactly what we did,” Dutton said.
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On Sunday, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham also commented on the uprising. He tried to have a slightly more conciliatory tone.
Do not underestimate the importance of restoring strong relations with the French government and its counterparts for a long time to come. Birmingham told Australia’s ABC that their continued role in this region is important.
The French announcement of the harsh and highly unusual diplomatic signal to recall the ambassadors of Australia and the United States came late Friday, a day after the two countries, along with the United Kingdom, announced the unification of a security pact called Aukus.
Regarding the agreement, it was clear that the United States and Australia had agreed on a submarine deal, which meant that France would lose a submarine agreement worth about $40 billion, roughly 350 billion kroner.
Although Britain was not part of the deal for infected submarines, the British also received boots from French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in an interview on Saturday with France 2. When asked why France chose not to call its homeland, the London ambassador also answered the minister:
We have summoned our ambassadors (in Canberra and Washington) to assess the situation. With the UK, there is no need for such a thing. We know of their constant opportunism. Jean-Yves Le Drian said there was no reason for the ambassador to call home to explain the situation.
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