Australia had “deep and serious” concerns about the capabilities of French submarines, PM says

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Seeking to explain the sudden turnaround that caused enormous anger in Paris, Morrison said that while he understood France’s disappointment on the issue, “Australia’s national interest comes first”.

“It has to come first and has come first and Australia’s interests are best served by the trilateral partnership I have been able to form with President Biden and Prime Minister Johnson,” he said at the meeting. ‘a press conference on Sunday.

Australia’s decision to drop the French deal and get nuclear-powered submarines through a new deal with the US and UK appears to have taken France by surprise by beginning of the week.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Sunday that President Emmanuel Macron would hold a phone call with US President Joe Biden in the coming days “to move forward.”

Speaking to the France 2 television channel on Saturday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the decision to cancel the agreement which had been in preparation since 2016 constituted a “crisis”.

“There have been lies, duplicity, major breach of trust and contempt. This is not right. Things are not going well between us, they are not going well at all,” he said. .

In a sign of gravity, the escalation was that France had recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia for consultation in response to the announcement, the diplomatic equivalent of slamming the door following an argument.

The cancellation of the agreement has real economic consequences for France. French submarine builder Naval Group said 500 of its employees in Australia and 650 in France are affected by the breach of the agreement.

The company announced on Sunday that it had suspended its recruitment efforts in order to prioritize the needs of those affected by the end of the contract.

But Morrison defended the decision on Sunday, saying the deal with France had raised concerns even before it was canceled.

“We were deeply concerned that the capability provided by the Attack-class submarine would not meet our strategic interests and we had made it clear that we would make a decision based on our strategic national interest,” he said.

Le Drian also criticized the UK for its role in the deal: doesn’t matter, Britain is a bit of a fifth wheel. “

New British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the UK was seeking partnerships with “like-minded countries”. Writing in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, she said the new deal with Australia and the United States shows Britain “is prepared to be stubborn in standing up for our interests and challenging unfair practices and malicious acts.”

Martin Goillandeau of CNN in London and Joseph Ataman of CNN in Paris contributed reporting.


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