France has recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia for consultations prompted by the “exceptional gravity” of Canberra’s surprise decision to cancel an order for French-built submarines and its security pact with Washington and London .
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the order to bring the ambassadors back to Paris “immediately” was taken at the request of French President Emmanuel Macron.
“This exceptional decision is justified by the exceptional gravity of the announcements made on September 15 by Australia and the United States,” Le Drian said in a statement Friday evening.
The French are furious at Australia’s decision to cancel a 90 billion Australian dollars (48 billion pounds) contract it signed with the French company Naval Group in 2016 for a fleet of 12 submarines state-of-the-art attack class. This agreement got bogged down in cost overruns, delays and design changes. Naval Group said the new deal that will see Canberra acquire US and UK-built nuclear-powered submarines, instead of those from France, was a “big disappointment.”
Le Drian had previously called the Aukus trilateral security pact – including the agreement on submarines – a “stab in the back”.
“The abandonment of the ocean-class submarine project that has linked Australia and France since 2016, and the announcement of a new partnership with the United States to launch studies on possible future cooperation on sub -nuclear-powered navies, constitute unacceptable behavior between allies and partners, the consequences of which affect the very conception that we have of our alliances, of our partnerships and of the importance of the Indo-Pacific region for Europe ”, Le Drian added.
This is the first time that France has recalled an American ambassador; the two countries have been allies since the american war of independence. France also canceled a gala scheduled to be held on Friday to commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of Chesapeake Bay, a decisive event of the war, which ended with the victory of the French fleet over the British on September 5. 1781.
A White House official told Reuters the United States regrets the French move and said Washington is in close contact with Paris. The official said the United States will commit to resolving disputes between the two countries in the coming days.
Peter Ricketts, former Permanent Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and former UK Ambassador to France, tweeted: “Don’t underestimate the reaction in Paris. It is not just anger, but a real sense of betrayal that the UK as well as the US and Australia have been negotiating behind their backs for 6 months. I experienced the rupture in 2003 over Iraq. It also looks bad or worse.
After announcing the Ambassador’s recall, Lord Ricketts added: “A precedent among the allied nations? Interestingly, not from the UK. A signal Paris considers Washington and Canberra as the leaders of a conspiracy, with London as an accomplice. Expect new French measures targeting the interests of the three.
The UK acted opportunistically, a French diplomatic source said on Friday.
“The United Kingdom accompanied this operation in an opportunistic manner,” the French diplomatic source told Reuters. “We do not need to consult our ambassador in Paris to know what to think and what conclusions to draw from it. “
France has not mentioned Britain in any official communication regarding the deal, focusing its anger on Australia – and in particular the United States.