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Australia made 'huge mistake' in cancelling submarine deal, says French envoy

SportSep 18, 2021 21:50
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: French Ambassador in charge of the G7 summit preparations Jean-Pierre Thebault speaks on his mobile phone while working in Biarritz, France August 25, 2019. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS 2/2

By Lidia Kelly and Gus Trompiz

MELBOURNE/PARIS (Reuters) -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 U.S. and British technology after striking a trilateral security partnership nL1N2QH2X7.

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.

"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 nL1N2QI002.

'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.

U.S. 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 U.S. 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."

Australia made 'huge mistake' in cancelling submarine deal, says French envoy
 

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Comments (4)
Karsten Böhm
Karsten Böhm Sep 19, 2021 8:03
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the French elites are arrogant liars good to sideline them like us unreliable Germans elites they prefer it to cuddle with Peking and Putin for some more Economical profit for the big business.
Jonathan So
Jonathan So Sep 18, 2021 21:28
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So CCP creation of 300 missile silos in its desert shows the CCP’s nuclear proliferation ?
Zen Cat
ZenCat Sep 18, 2021 13:53
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If the politicians would stop whining maybe they could reach a deal for something else.
david scott
david scott Sep 18, 2021 12:49
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petulant french, so childish and predictable of them throwing their toys around
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david scott
david scott Sep 18, 2021 12:49
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at least we have the US and Australia haha
John Jones
John Jones Sep 18, 2021 12:49
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david scott the US didn’t give you a trade deal following brexit, as was promised... Boris backed the wrong horse in the US election. Australia is also a nonentity.
david scott
david scott Sep 18, 2021 12:49
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oh I forgot the french are loved the world over - not! The truth is the french are doing everything in their power to nick jobs and entice companies away from the UK while also aiding illegal immigration. macron is no friend
Phil Long
Phil Long Sep 18, 2021 12:49
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just look at French cars, no wonder they chose Britain and US
david scott
david scott Sep 18, 2021 12:49
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typical, you lose the argument so resort to insults. All my comments are factual, only a few weeks ago france organised a banking conference in London to entice bankers to the continent
 
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