1st phone call since AUKUS deal held after Australian premier wrote letter to French president
PARIS (AA) – In a first phone call since the controversial submarine crisis triggered a major diplomatic row, the French president told the Australian premier that their decision to cancel the strategic contract broke the trust between the two countries.
The submarine issue dominated the discussion between Emmanuel Macron and Scott Morrison on Thursday ahead of the G20 summit in Rome and COP26 in Glasgow, where the two leaders are likely to meet in person.
According to Australian ABC News, Morrison had attempted a phone call with Macron last month but the French president did not respond positively. The two leaders were able to talk after Morrison wrote him a letter earlier this month, the report added quoting the Australian prime minister’s office.
“Australia’s unilateral decision to scale back the French-Australian strategic partnership by putting an end to the ocean-class submarine program in favor of another as-yet-unspecified project broke the relationship of trust between our two countries,” a statement from the Elysee Palace read. It added that France will pay “utmost attention” to the commercial interests of French and Australian businesses affected by this decision.
Throwing the ball in Canberra’s court, Macron also told Morrison that it was up to the Australian government to “redefine the bilateral relationship and continue joint action in the Indo-Pacific.”
During a press conference on Thursday in Canberra, Morrison said he is conscious about the “disappointment” caused to France over the submarine contract and will make use of the opportunities to resolve it during his visit to Europe for the G20 and COP26 summit. “There is some deep disappointment on those contractual issues on a bipartisan basis, but we’ll work through those and I’m very confident about that.”
In a surprise move, Australia canceled an estimated 90 contracts with France for 12 conventionally-powered submarines and placed the same with the United States, causing a massive outrage in Paris.
The AUKUS deal inked by Australia, the UK, and the US in September to defend the Indo Pacific zone from China’s influence had shocked France.
Foreign Minister Jean Le Drian called France’s exclusion from the new defense alliance “betrayal” and “stab in the back” by the western allies. Consequently, Paris recalled its envoys from the US and Australia and agreed to restore diplomatic relations after being pacified by President Joe Biden.