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In escalation over submarine deal, France recalls envoys from U.S. and Australia

WorldSep 18, 2021 05:02AM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison looks on during a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in front of the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, June 15, 2021. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol 2/2

By John Irish, Colin Packham, David Brunnstrom and Humeyra Pamuk

PARIS/CANBERRA/WASHINGTON (Reuters) -France plunged into an unprecedented diplomatic crisis with the United States and Australia on Friday after it recalled its ambassadors from both countries over a trilateral security deal which sank a French-designed submarine contract with Canberra.

The rare decision taken by French President Emmanuel Macron was made due to the "exceptional gravity" of the matter, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement.

On Thursday, Australia said it would scrap a $40 billion deal signed in 2016 for France's Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines and would instead build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with U.S. and British technology after striking a trilateral security partnership. France called it a stab in the back.

A diplomatic source in France said it was the first time Paris had recalled its own ambassadors in this way.

Australia said on Saturday morning it regretted the recall, 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 in a statement. [L4N2QJ3JI]

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that France was a 'vital ally' and that the United States would be engaged in coming days to resolve the differences.

The French foreign ministry statement made no mention of Britain, but the diplomatic source said France considered Britain had joined the deal in an opportunistic manner.

"We don't need to hold consultations with our (British) ambassador to know what to make of it or to draw any conclusions," the source added.

Le Drian said the deal was unacceptable.

"The cancellation (of the project) ... and the announcement of a new partnership with the United States meant to launch studies on a possible future cooperation on nuclear-powered submarines, constitute unacceptable behavior between allies and partners," he said in a statement.

He added that the consequences "directly affect the vision we have of our alliances, of our partnerships and of the importance of the Indo-Pacific for Europe."

LOW POINT

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

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday rejected French criticism that it had not been warned about the new deal, and said he had raised the possibility in talks with the French president that Australia might scrap the Naval Group deal.

Morrison insisted he had told Macron in June that Australia had revised its thinking.

"I made it very clear, we had a lengthy dinner there in Paris, about our very significant concerns about the capabilities of conventional submarines to deal with the new strategic environment we're faced with," he told 5aa Radio.

"I made it very clear that this was a matter that Australia would need to make a decision on in our national interest."

The strain in multilateral ties come as the United States and its allies seek additional support in Asia and the Pacific given concern about the rising influence of a more assertive China.

France is about to take over the presidency of the European Union, which on Thursday released its strategy for the Indo-Pacific, pledging to seek a trade deal with Taiwan and to deploy more ships to keep sea routes open.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tried on Thursday to calm the French outcry, calling France a vital partner in the region.

Pierre Morcos, a visiting fellow at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies, called France's move "historic."

"Reassuring words such as those heard yesterday from Secretary Blinken are not enough for Paris - especially after French authorities learned that this agreement was months in the making," he said.

In escalation over submarine deal, France recalls envoys from U.S. and Australia
 

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Comments (8)
Necleus Electron
Necleus Electron Sep 18, 2021 11:18AM ET
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Let me remind everybody. US is as evil and scheming as it can get! Us go around the world creating conflicts just to make pile of money - by selling their american made weapons. american companies made $23 blns just from selling metals to taiwan alone! Why do you think US like to poke their nose into other nations affairs, esp if the nations are rich! Us will not.....i repeat......will not leave Afghanistan if the country purchase billions worth of metals from america!
Flynn Flynn
FlynnFlynn Sep 18, 2021 9:09AM ET
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No ally is permanent. Only personal interests and common enemies.
Eudon Hickey
Eudon Hickey Sep 18, 2021 8:39AM ET
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Macron stabbed his own people with his covid rules in france
David David
David9 Sep 18, 2021 8:20AM ET
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We are going to see more alliances against the aggressors...
Jose Maderno
Jose Maderno Sep 18, 2021 8:11AM ET
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Pay attention... it illustrates which factions are actually in control of the government.  The French defense contractor's top brass got really mad and made the government react like little children.  Bully for Britain...they must be laughing themselves silly.
Gary SKY saw
Gary SKY saw Sep 18, 2021 3:58AM ET
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Hahaha.. Now the French knows who is their friend.. Well not too late.. Build nuclear subs and sell it to iran, taliban, Syria.... aukus will tremble
Benoit Avril
Benoit Avril Sep 18, 2021 3:42AM ET
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Well I'm French and I can't blame Australia for canceling the deal. We all have different figures, I read it started at a €30 billion price and ended up at €56 billion. €56 billion for... 650 direct jobs, and submarines delivered in 2034.France is not upset, croonies at the top are. They should just stop that practice of inflating the prices and delays. it's soo common in France that it stopped our new generation of nuclear power plant development program. The IS is no better for that, look at the F35 and F22 programs. What is weird is that Australia changed his mind for nuclear submarines, which will then be maintained and supplied by the US, while they specifically asked for non nuclear subs and we modified ours so they could be diesel ones. Calling ambassadors back is ridiculous, they will go back there after a meeting with Biden, a'd Macron will tell everyone he obtained guarantees and compensations.
Benoit Avril
Benoit Avril Sep 18, 2021 3:42AM ET
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Cancelling sorry.
Necleus Electron
Necleus Electron Sep 17, 2021 10:58AM ET
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1) Like i always said, US is a hypocrite and superficial country. The americans only solicit allies and make friends with benefits. EU has been like a puppet being led around here and there by US. 2) Not surprise australia side with Us, its well known aussies are racists and lackeys of americans. Look at the way scoot.morrison look.up to biden, its like a gay marriage in the making.
 
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