London and Washington tried to coax their French ally this weekend, infuriated by the announcement of a strategic partnership between the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom.
“President Biden has asked to speak to the President of the Republic (Emmanuel Macron) and there will be a telephone exchange in the next few days,” French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Sunday.
“We want explanations” on what “is akin to a major breach of confidence”, and also know “how they intend to leave this contract”, with “compensation” to the key, he said on the BFMTV television channel.
Australia’s decision to cancel the contract to purchase French submarines in favor of US nuclear-powered ships has sparked outrage in Paris. Emmanuel Macron recalled the ambassadors of France in Canberra and Washington in an unprecedented gesture. He was due to meet with them on Sunday evening, Mr Attal added.
The United States, Australia and the United Kingdom announced Wednesday a strategic partnership to counter China, AUKUS, including the supply of American nuclear-powered submarines to Canberra which effectively got the French out of the game.
And nothing is going any more between the allies. A meeting scheduled this week between French Minister of the Armies Florence Parly and her British counterpart Ben Wallace has been canceled at the request of Paris, AFP learned Sunday evening from a source at the French ministry.
A few hours later, the British Prime Minister tried to console his French ally, on the plane that took him to New York, where he is to attend the UN General Assembly and meet Joe Biden at the White House. .
The United Kingdom and France have “a very friendly relationship” of “immense importance,” Boris Johnson told reporters, according to the British agency Press Association, before adding: “our love of France is ineradicable ”.
“This partnership is by no means meant to be zero sum, it is not meant to be exclusionary,” Mr Johnson said, “it’s not something anyone has to worry about. and in particular not our French friends ”.
Canberra “do not regret”
Earlier today, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected French accusations of duplicity.
“I don’t regret the decision to put Australia’s national interest first. I will never regret it, ”he added, saying it would have been“ negligent ”to move forward against advice from Australia’s defense and intelligence services.
Nuclear propulsion submarines are notably more autonomous than conventional propulsion submarines (diesel-electric), provided for in the contract with France.
Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton, for his part, insisted that Canberra had been “outspoken, open and honest” with France about its concerns over the deal, which was over budget and years behind schedule.
Mr Dutton said he personally expressed these concerns to his French counterpart, Florence Parly. “We were never made aware of Australian intentions. His assertions are inaccurate, ”retorted the French minister, on the sidelines of a trip to Niamey.
On Saturday, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian spoke for his part on the France 2 channel of a “serious crisis” and denounced a “duplicity” of Canberra and Washington.
“There has been a lie, there has been duplicity, there has been a major breach of trust, there has been contempt so things are not right between us,” he lamented.
The recall of the French ambassador to London, the capital which is also part of the security pact, was deemed unnecessary: ”We know their permanent opportunism”, he quipped, a few months after Brexit.
The new alliance also caused a reaction Pyongyang for whom “these are extremely unwanted and dangerous acts which will upset the strategic balance in the Asia-Pacific region and will trigger a nuclear arms race,” according to the state news agency North. Korean KCNA citing a North Korean Foreign Ministry official.
“This shows that the United States is the main culprit that endangers the international system on nuclear non-proliferation,” he added.
France had signed in 2016 a contract of 90 billion Australian dollars (56 billion euros) for the supply to Australia of 12 submarines with diesel propulsion, often qualified of “contract of century” because of its magnitude. and its strategic scope.
In this regard, Mr. Le Drian believes that the crisis will weigh on the definition of NATO’s new strategic concept, without, however, evoking any exit from the Atlantic alliance.
“NATO has initiated a reflection, at the request of the President of the Republic, on its fundamentals. The next NATO summit in Madrid will be the culmination of the new strategic concept. Obviously, what has just happened will have to do with this definition, ”he said.
“But at the same time Europe must equip itself with its strategic compass and this will be under the responsibility of France in the first half of 2022”, he added, referring to the French presidency of the European Union in January 1st.