• Saturday, Oct 16, 2021
  • Last Update : 08:29 pm

French envoy: Australia made huge mistake in cancelling submarine deal

  • Published at 08:30 am September 19th, 2021
France's Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Outside view of the Quai d'Orsay building, headquarters of France's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris, February 28, 2003 Reuters

Australia and US try to assuage French anger

Australia has made a "huge" diplomatic error by ditching a multi-billion-dollar order for French submarines in favour of an alternative deal with the United States and Britain, France's envoy to Canberra said on Saturday.

Canberra announced on Thursday it would scrap its 2016 deal with France's Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines and instead build at least eight nuclear-powered ones with US and British technology after striking a trilateral security partnership.

The move caused fury in France, a Nato ally of the United States and Britain, prompting it to recall its ambassadors to Washington and Canberra, and also riled China, the major rising power in the Indo-Pacific region.

Malaysia said on Saturday that Canberra's decision to build atomic-powered submarines could trigger a regional nuclear arms race, echoing concerns already raised by Beijing.

"It will provoke other powers to also act more aggressively in the region, especially in the South China Sea," the Malaysian prime minister's office said, without mentioning China.

Beijing's foreign policy in the region has become increasingly assertive, particularly its maritime claims in the resource-rich South China Sea, some of which conflict with Malaysia's own claims.


Also Read - Nuclear submarine deal to reshape Indo-Pacific relations


"This has been a huge mistake, a very, very bad handling of the partnership - because it wasn't a contract, it was a partnership that was supposed to be based on trust, mutual understanding and sincerity," France's Ambassador Jean-Pierre Thebault told reporters in Canberra before returning to Paris.

France has previously branded the cancellation of the deal - valued at $40 billion in 2016 and reckoned to be worth much more today - a stab in the back.

'Duplicity'

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian later described the row as a "crisis" in France's relations with the United States and Australia.

"There has been duplicity, contempt and lies - you can't play that way in an alliance," he told France 2 television.

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said France was a "vital ally" and that the United States would work in the coming days to resolve the differences.

Analysts say that even if US officials hope the crisis will blow over quickly, it could do lasting damage to Washington's alliance with France and Europe and throws into doubt the united front that the Biden administration has been seeking to forge against China's growing power.

Australia said it regretted the recall of the French ambassador and that it valued the relationship with France and would keep engaging with Paris on other issues.

"Australia understands France's deep disappointment with our decision, which was taken in accordance with our clear and communicated national security interests," a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said on Saturday.

Thebault said he was very sad to have to leave Australia but added there "needs to be some reassessment" of bilateral ties.

In separate comments made to SBS radio, Thebault said of the ditched agreement: "It was not about selling salads or potatoes, it was a relationship of trust at the highest level covering questions of the highest level of secrecy and sensitivity."

The row between Paris and Canberra marks the lowest point in their relations since 1995, when Australia protested France's decision to resume nuclear testing in the South Pacific and recalled its ambassador for consultations.

Public opinion in France, where President Emmanuel Macron is expected to seek a second term in an election due next year, has also been very critical of Australia and the United States.

"You can understand for geopolitical reasons Australia getting closer to other anglophone countries like the United States and Britain," said Louis Maman, a Parisian surgeon out for a stroll on Saturday on the Champs-Elysees.

"But there was a real contract and I think there was an alliance and a friendship between Australia and France. It's spoiling a friendship," he said. "I took it as a betrayal."

63
Facebook 63
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail