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France recalls ambassadors to U.S., Australia over submarine deal


France plunged into an unprecedented diplomatic crisis with the United States and Australia on Friday after it recalled its ambassadors from both countries over a trilateral security deal which sank a $40-billion French-designed submarine contract.

Foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement that the rare decision taken by President Emmanuel Macron was made due to the seriousness of the matter.

On Thursday, Australia said it would scrap the $40-billion deal with France’s Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines and would instead build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with U.S. and British technology after striking a trilateral security partnership. France called it a stab in the back.

A White House official said the United States regretted the French decision and that Washington had been in close touch with France over it. The official said the United States would be engaged in the coming days to resolve differences with France.

Australia’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

‘A stab in the back’

A diplomatic source in France said it was the first time Paris had recalled its own ambassadors in this way. The foreign ministry statement made no mention of Britain, but the diplomatic source said France considered Britain had joined the deal in an opportunistic manner.

“We don’t need to hold consultations with our [British] ambassador to know what to make of it or to draw any conclusions,” the source added.

Le Drian said the deal was unacceptable. On Thursday expressed “total incomprehension” at the move and criticized both Australia and the U.S.

“It was really a stab in the back. We built a relationship of trust with Australia, and this trust was betrayed,” he said. “This is not done between allies.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tried on Thursday to calm the French outcry, calling France a vital partner in the Indo-Pacific.

U.S. President Joe Biden holds a virtual news conference with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, right, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday, announcing the submarine deal and a larger security partnership in the Indo-Pacific. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Australia rejects French criticism

Earlier on Friday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected French criticism that it had not been warned about the new deal, saying he had raised the possibility in talks with the French president that Australia might scrap the 2016 submarine deal with a French company.

Morrison acknowledged the damage to Australia-France ties but insisted he had told Macron in June that Australia had revised its thinking.

“I made it very clear, we had a lengthy dinner there in Paris, about our very significant concerns about the capabilities of conventional submarines to deal with the new strategic environment we’re faced with,” he told 5aa Radio.

“I made it very clear that this was a matter that Australia would need…



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