PARIS – France said Friday evening it was immediately recalling its ambassadors to the United States and Australia after Australia abandoned a large purchase of French conventional submarines in favor of nuclear submarines built with American technology.
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a written statement that the French decision, at the request of President Emmanuel Macron, “is justified by the exceptional gravity of the announcements” made by Australia and the United States.
He said Wednesday’s announcement of Australia’s submarine deal with the United States was “unacceptable behavior between allies and partners.”
Earlier Friday, a senior French diplomat spoke of a “crisis” in relations with the United States
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The diplomat, who spoke anonymously in accordance with usual government practice, said that for Paris “this is a strategic issue concerning the very nature of relations between Europe and the United States regarding the Indo strategy. -peaceful”.
He would not speculate on the effects the situation would have on France’s relations with the United States. “There is a crisis,” he said.
Macron has not commented on the matter since President Joe Biden announced an Indo-Pacific strategic alliance with Australia and Britain, leading France to lose a nearly $ 100 billion deal for build diesel-electric submarines.
France has been campaigning for several years for a European strategy to strengthen economic, political and defense ties in the region from India and China to Japan and New Zealand. The EU unveiled its plan for the Indo-Pacific this week.
The French diplomat said on Friday that Macron received a letter from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday morning announcing the decision to cancel the submarine deal.
French officials then decided to contact the US administration “to ask what was going on,” he said. He added that talks with Washington took place just two to three hours before Biden’s public announcement.
Le Drian on Thursday expressed “complete misunderstanding” of the move and criticized both Australia and the United States
“It was really a stab in the back. We built a relationship of trust with Australia, and that trust was betrayed,” he said. “It doesn’t happen between allies.
FILE – In this image provided by the Australian Defense Force, the Royal Australian Navy submarine HMAS Rankin is seen during AUSINDEX 21, a biennial maritime exercise between the Royal Australian Navy and the Indian Navy on September 5, 2021.
He also compared Biden’s decision to those of his predecessor, Donald Trump, under Trump’s “America First” doctrine.
Paris raised the issue of the Indo-Pacific strategy during the visit to Paris on June 25 by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, expressing the importance of its submarine program with Australia, the diplomat said.
“We said that for us it was a very important and critical element in our Indo-Pacific strategy,” he said. Blinken met Macron during the visit.
The French diplomat said Australia had never mentioned to France its willingness to switch to nuclear-powered submarines, most notably during a meeting between Macron and Morrison in Paris on June 15.