Australia made ‘huge’ mistake’ cancelling submarine deal, says French ambassador

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After Canberra struck a multi-billion-dollar submarine deal with France, the French ambassador said Australia had made a “huge” diplomatic error.

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Jean-Pierre Thébault was recalled to Paris with the French ambassador to the US after Australia opted to strike a new deal with the US and UK in 2016 to build a fleet of conventional submarines for the French Naval Group. The deal that was signed was cancelled.

“I think it’s a huge mistake, a very, very poor management of a partnership because it was not a contract, it was a partnership that should have been based on trust, mutual understanding and honesty,” Mr Thebault said earlier. Leaving Canberra.


Australia joined the US and the UK on Thursday in a trilateral security partnership occupancy that will first deliver eight nuclear-powered submarines to the Royal Australian Navy.

France has said it was not given sufficient warning of the cancellation of the $90bn (£65bn) deal and that the announcement by Auks was “unacceptable behavior between allies and partners”.

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Mr Thebault said on Saturday he was “very sad to be forced to leave”.

“I want to run into a time machine, if possible, and be in a position where we don’t end up in such an unbelievable, useless, inadequately un-Australian situation,” he said.

Australia said it regretted the recall of the French ambassador, that it values ​​relations with France and will continue to hold talks 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,” the foreign minister said in a statement.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said France was an “important ally” and the US would continue to resolve differences in the days to come.

Relations between Australia and France have fallen to their lowest level since 1995, when Canberra protested France’s decision to resume nuclear tests in the South Pacific and recalled its ambassador.

Opinion in France, where Emmanuel Macron is expected to seek a second term in next year’s election, has turned sour in Australia and the United States.

“You can understand, for geopolitical reasons, that Australia is getting closer to other Anglophone countries like the United States and Britain,” said Louis Maman, a Paris-based surgeon who took a walk in the Champs-Elysees on Saturday.

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

Additional reporting by Reuters


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