PARIS, FRANCE – JUNE 15: French President Emmanuel Macron (R) greets Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (L) before a working lunch at the Elysee Presidential Palace on June 15, 2021.
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LONDON – France isn’t holding back on showing its disappointment with Australia after abruptly terminating a submarine deal to sign a new treaty with the US and UK
“It was a blow in the back. We had built a relationship of trust with Australia. This trust was betrayed,” said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Thursday morning to the radio station FranceInfo.
According to Reuters, Australia signed a contract with French shipbuilder Naval Group in 2016 to build a new fleet worth $ 40 billion. Both sides had confirmed the deal a few weeks ago. However, Canberra has now decided to repeal this agreement and merge with the US and UK.
Late on Wednesday, the three nations announced a new security partnership in which Australia will receive new nuclear submarines. The deal with France would have made conventional submarines available.
“We intend to build these submarines in Adelaide in close cooperation with the UK and the US. But let me be clear, Australia is not looking for nuclear weapons,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Twitter.
He added that France was a “good partner” and that the new deal was motivated by “a changed strategic environment”, according to France 24.
US President Joe Biden, referring to France when unveiling the new deal on Wednesday, said the European nation would remain an important partner in the Indo-Pacific region.
However, these words are unlikely to appease the bad feelings in France.
“The American decision that removes an ally and a European partner like France from structuring a partnership with Australia at a time when we in the Indo-Pacific region are facing unprecedented challenges … observe and regret”, France’s foreign minister and the armed forces said in a joint statement on Thursday.
The statement also says that recent developments reinforce the need for European strategic autonomy – the idea that the EU should become more independent in its defense and security policies.
The European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, will present its strategy for the Indo-Pacific region on Thursday afternoon.