Australia says it was ‘upfront’ with France over submarine deal as crisis continues By Reuters
By Lidia Kelly
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia was “upfront, open and honest” with France about its concerns over a deal for French submarines, its defence minister said on Sunday, as a new deal with the United States and Britain continued to fuel a multinational diplomatic crisis.
Australia announced on Thursday that it would build at most eight conventional submarines using U.S. technology and British technology as part of a trilateral security partnership.
The move infuriated France, a NATO ally of the United States and Britain, prompting it to recall its ambassadors (https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/australian-pm-says-he-made-clear-france-possibility-scrapping-submarine-deal-2021-09-17) from Washington and Canberra, and riled China (https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/australia-get-us-nuclear-submarine-technology-china-looms-large-2021-09-15), the major rising power in the Indo-Pacific region.
The deal has put Washington in an unprecedented diplomatic crisis with France that analysts say could do lasting damage to the U.S. alliance with France and Europe, throwing also throws into doubt the united front (https://www.reuters.com/world/french-break-up-blow-bidens-china-focused-alliance-rebuilding-2021-09-18) that the Biden administration has been seeking to forge against China’s growing power.
Paris has called the cancellation a stab in the back (https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/australia-made-huge-mistake-cancelling-submarine-deal-says-french-ambassador-2021-09-18), with Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian saying relations with the United States and Australia were in a “crisis”.
On Sunday, Defence Minister Peter Dutton stated that Australia was raising concerns about the purchase – which is estimated to have cost $40 billion and will be much higher today – for several years.
Dutton stated to Sky News that suggestions suggesting the Australian government hadn’t raised concerns were “defying, frankly,” Sky News said.
Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister, said Friday that he raised “very serious concerns” to French President Emmanuel Macron about the deal and stated that Australia must make a decision in Australia’s national interest.
Simon Birmingham, the Finance Minister said Australia informed France about the agreement but admitted on Sunday that the negotiations were secret due to “enormous sensibilities”.
Dutton, Birmingham and others declined to share the cost of the new pact. However Dutton indicated that “it is not going be an inexpensive project”.
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