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Australia made a ‘diplomatic mistake’ by canceling submarine deal: French envoy

MELBOURNE/PARIS: The French envoy in Canberra said on Saturday (September 18) that Australia has made a “big” diplomatic move by dropping the multi-billion dollar order for French submarines in favor of an alternative deal with the United States and Britain. error has occurred. )

Canberra announced on Thursday (September 16) it would scrap its 2016 deal with French Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines and instead strike a trilateral security partnership with US and British technology. with at least eight nuclear-powered ones.

The move caused anger among France, the United States and Britain’s NATO ally, prompting it to withdraw. Ambassador to Washington and Canberra, and also angered China, the major emerging power in the Indo-Pacific.

Malaysia said on Saturday (September 18) that Canberra’s decision to build nuclear-powered submarines could trigger a regional nuclear arms race, echoing concerns already raised by Beijing.

“This will also provoke other powers to act more aggressively in the region, particularly in the South China Sea,” the Malaysian prime minister’s office said without mentioning China.

Beijing’s foreign policy in the region has become increasingly assertive, particularly its maritime claims in the resource-rich South China Sea, some of which conflict with Malaysia’s own claims.

French Ambassador Jean- “It has been a very big mistake, a very poor operation of the partnership – because it was not a contract, it was a partnership that should have been based on trust, mutual understanding and honesty.” Pierre Thébault told reporters in Canberra before returning to Paris.

France had previously branded the cancellation of the deal – valued at $40 billion in 2016 and considered to be worth a lot today – a stab in the back.

‘repetition’

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian later described the line as a “crisis” in France’s relations with the United States and Australia.

“There has been repetition, contempt and lies – you can’t play like that in an alliance,” he told France 2 television.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said France was an “important ally” and that United States Will work to resolve the differences in the coming days.

Analysts say that even though US officials expect the crisis to end quickly, it could do lasting damage to Washington’s alliances with France and Europe and raises doubts on the United Front that the Biden administration is undermining China’s growing development. trying to build against. Power.

Australia said it regretted the recall of the French ambassador and values ​​relations with France and will continue to hold talks with Paris on other issues.

“Australia understands France’s deep disappointment with our decision, which was taken in accordance with our clear and communicated national security interests,” a spokesman for Foreign Minister Maris Payne said on Saturday (September 18).

Thebault said he was deeply saddened to leave Australia, but added that bilateral ties “need some reassessment”.

In separate comments made on SBS Radio, Thebault said of the broken agreement: “It was not about selling lettuce or potatoes, it was a relationship of trust at the highest level with the highest level of confidentiality and questions of sensitivity. were involved.”

The row between Paris and Canberra marks the lowest point in their relationship since 1995, when Australia protested France’s decision to resume nuclear testing in the South Pacific and recalled its ambassador for consultations.

referendum in France, where President Emmanuel Macron The election next year, which is expected to seek a second term, has also been very critical of Australia and the United States.

“You can understand for geopolitical reasons that Australia is getting closer to other Anglophone countries like the United States and Britain,” said Louis Maman, a Paris-based surgeon who took a walk on the Champs-Elysées on Saturday.

“But there was a real contract and I think there was an alliance and friendship between Australia and France. It’s spoiling the friendship,” he said. “I took it as a betrayal.”

By Naveen Bharat Staff

 

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