French President, Emanuel Macron, has recalled France’s ambassadors to Australia and the U.S. in the fall out from Canberra’s announcement that it would step away from a $90 million deal to buy French submarines and instead build nuclear-powered subs using American technology.
The deal torpedoes the 2016 arrangement with France, with French government officials reportedly outraged by the announcement, saying it was contrary to the spirit of co-operation between France and Australia.
French Foreign Affairs Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian said President Macron’s decision to recall diplomats was “justified by the exceptional seriousness of the announcements” made by the new AUKUS alliance between the US, Australia and the UK.
Jean-Pierre Thebault, the French ambassador to Australia, and Philippe Etienne, the ambassador to the US, will return for “consultations”, he said.
“France takes note of the decision just announced by the Australian government to stop the future submarine program and launch co-operation with the United States,” Minister Le Drian said.
“This exceptional decision is justified by the exceptional gravity of the announcements made on 15 September by Australia and the United States.”
While Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, attempted to mitigate the impact of the decision, it had little effect on disgruntled French officials.
“I want to stress that France remains an incredibly important partner in the Pacific,” Mr Morrison said yesterday.
“I look forward and I hope to see us continue once we move past what is obviously a very difficult and disappointing decision for France.
“I understand that. I respect it. But as a Prime Minister I must make decisions that are in Australia’s national security. I know that France would do the same.”
The French submarine contract had reportedly been rife with delays and budget blow-outs.
French diplomat, Gerard Araud, lashed out at the Australian government in a post on Twitter, likening Australia’s about-face to being “stabbed [France] in the back”.
“The world is a jungle,” he wrote.
“France has just been reminded this bitter truth by the way the US and the UK have stabbed her in the back in Australia.”
“[It] has nothing to do with capabilities…France was able to sell nuclear-powered submarines.”
Despite the French outrage, in recent years, Australia had indicated that the French submarines may no longer match its security requirements for the coming decades.