French ambassador calls Australia ‘childish’ as he returns to Canberra following Aukus deal row

The envoy said it remains to be seen what is left of the Canberra-Paris diplomatic relationship

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Friday 08 October 2021 10:32
Beijing Slams AUKUS, Calls the Submarine Deal 'Extremely Irresponsible'

Lashing out at the new trilateral Aukus deal, the French ambassador to Canberra Jean-Pierre Thebault accused the Australian government of being "childish" after it withdraw from a submarine contract with France.

Australia last month dumped a US$40 billion deal with France’s Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines after joining the United States and Britain in a trilateral Indo-pacific security partnership dubbed Aukus.

Under the partnership, the Royal Australian Navy will receive eight nuclear-powered submarines with British and US technology to counter China’s military aggression.

Following the decision to pull out of the 2016 submarine deal, a livid France withdrew its ambassador to Australia.

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison said he allegedly raised concerns with Paris over the troubled Naval Group contract, but he could not reveal discussions with the United States.

"It’s childish to say that it was impossible to consult France. They have officially stated things should have been done differently. There should have been consultations," Mr Thebault told ABC radio on Friday.

He added that it “remains to be seen” what is left of the relationship France and Australia had "built for years, sometimes decades, together".

“I have to revise everything because when we were talking about the importance of something, and then we discover those words were empty — then what was true? What is still real," he said.

The ambassador maintained that has been asked to return to Canberra with clear instructions to re-evaluate the diplomatic relationship.

"Australians remain our friends, but we need among governments to rebuild the trust. The way it was managed was a serious breach of trust and this needs to be repaired, and it will take time," he added.

France decided to send its envoy back to Australia after withdrawing ambassadors from Canberra and Washington for their "huge diplomatic error". Although Paris had promptly sent back its envoy to the US, contacts with Australia were completely halted.

“I have now asked our ambassador to return to Canberra with two missions: to help redefine the terms of our relationship with Australia in the future, and to defend our interests in the concrete implementation of the Australian decision to end the program for future submarines," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a parliamentary committee.

Earlier Mr Le Drian said that Australia betrayed the Paris by signing the new deal. "It was a stab in the back. We had established a relationship of trust with Australia. This trust has been betrayed," he said.

So far, a number of European Union leaders have rallied behind France, which could hamper Canberra’s relationship with the bloc. Asian giant China, the Philippines, Germany, New Zealand are among the countries that have raised objections against the new defence pact.

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