France’s withdrawal of its Australian ambassador over Canberra’s move to dump a submarine deal with the European power has been “noted with regret”.
Australia this week scrapped a $90 billion deal with France’s Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines, in favour of a nuclear fleet option as part of an alliance – named AUKUS – with the United Kingdom and United States.
France labelled the move a stab in the back and overnight confirmed it would withdraw chief diplomatic representatives from Australia and the US.
“We note with regret France’s decision to recall its ambassador to Australia for consultations following the decision on the Attack class project,” a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said in a statement on Saturday.
“Australia understands France’s deep disappointment with our decision, which was taken in accordance with our clear and communicated national security interests.
Video: France reacts to submarine decision (9News.com.au)
“Australia values its relationship with France, which is an important partner and a vital contributor to stability, particularly in the Indo-Pacific. This will not change.”
Senator Payne’s spokesperson said Australia and France share many issues of interest and “we look forward to engaging with France again”.
The AUKUS arrangement could see Australia’s first nuclear-powered submarines in the water before 2040.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed Australia spent $2.4 billion on the scrapped French submarine deal for 12 Attack-class submarines.
“Of course they’re disappointed,” he said at the time.
He stressed the decision did not reflect on the Attack class, Naval Group or the French government.Internet Explorer Channel Network