Australia has made a “huge” diplomatic mistake, the French ambassador said on Saturday after Canberra abandoned a multibillion-dollar order for French submarines in favor of an alternative deal with the United States and Britain.
“I think this has been a big mistake, a very, very mismanagement of the association, because it was not a contract, it was an association that was supposed to be based on trust, mutual understanding and sincerity,” said the ambassador. Jean. Pierre Thebault told reporters in Canberra.
Australia said on Thursday it would scrap the agreement signed in 2016 for the French Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines and instead build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with US and British technology after establishing a trilateral safety partnership.
France called the cancellation of the deal, valued at $ 40 billion in 2016 and estimated that it was worth much more today, a stab in the back and called its ambassadors from the United States and Australia.
“I would like to run into a time machine, if possible, and be in a situation where we don’t end up in such an incredible, awkward and inappropriate non-Australian situation,” Thebault said.
“I am very saddened that they force me to leave, although a reassessment is necessary.”
Australia said it regretted the removal of the French ambassador, that it valued the relationship with France and that it would continue to work with Paris on other issues.
“Australia understands France’s profound disappointment with our decision, which was made in accordance with our clear and communicated national security interests,” a spokeswoman for Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said France was a “vital ally” and that the United States would participate in the coming days to resolve the differences.
The dispute marks the lowest point in Australian-French relations since 1995, when Canberra protested France’s decision to resume nuclear tests in the South Pacific and called its ambassador for consultations.