Australia ‘in denial’ over subs fallout, says France’s Indo-Pacific envoy

Bangkok: France has restored “a degree of trust” with the United States after Canberra cancelled a multibillion-dollar submarine deal, but the same cannot be said for Australia, a French regional envoy said on Thursday.

Christophe Penot, France’s ambassador for the Indo-Pacific, said the rift with Canberra is ongoing because the Australian government is still “in denial” about communication of the decision.

No trust: Prime Minister Scott Morrison and French President Emmanuel Macron.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

France and Australia have been at loggerheads since Canberra opted for nuclear-powered submarines to be built with US and British technology rather than continue with a French submarine contract.

The French ambassador to Australia, Jean-Pierre Thebault, accused the Morrison government of stabbing France in the back.

The new security alliance, dubbed AUKUS, is designed to give Australia access to nuclear-powered submarines for the first time, but it caused a major diplomatic rift after France said it was not informed in advance.

Emmanuel Macron later branded Scott Morrison a liar after the Prime Minister claimed he had informed the French President the deal would be scrapped.

Paris briefly recalled its ambassadors from Australia and the United States in protest.

A flurry of diplomatic contact with Washington resulted in an acknowledgement by US President Joe Biden that the deal’s announcement “was not handled in a graceful way”.

Biden met with Macron in October ahead of the Group of 20 summit.

“We think that we have restored a degree of trust, mutual trust with our American ally,” Penot said.

But he added that no such trust had been regained with Australia.

“I don’t think we have the same perception of how and why this happened,” Penot said. “So it is difficult to make progress and restore trust if they are in denial.”

Morrison has argued that he had previously explained to Macron that conventional submarines would no longer meet Australia’s needs ahead of the AUKUS deal.


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