Australia on Wednesday canceled a multibillion-dollar deal for conventional French submarines to enter into an Indo-Pacific strategic alliance with the United States and Britain in which it will obtain nuclear-powered submarines Americans.
Qualifying the cancellation of “unacceptable behavior”, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian estimated Friday in a statement that the decision to recall the envoys, at the request of President Emmanuel Macron, “is justified by the exceptional gravity of the announcements ”made by Australia and the United States.
A White House official said on Friday that the United States regretted France’s decision to recall its ambassador from Washington and would continue to engage in the coming days to resolve disputes between the two countries.
Earlier on Friday, a senior French diplomat spoke of a “crisis” in relations with the United States.
The diplomat, who spoke anonymously to The Associated Press news agency in accordance with standard government practice, said that for Paris “this is a strategic question concerning the very nature of relations between Europe and the United States on the Indo-Pacific strategy ”.
He would not speculate on the effects the situation would have on France’s relations with the United States.
“There is a crisis,” he stressed.
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 European Union 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 have built a relationship of trust with Australia, and that trust has been betrayed, ”he said. “It doesn’t happen between allies.
He also compared US President Joe 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 this 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.