France will take the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors from Australia and the United States, as the fallout grows from a new defence pact that has infuriated French President Emmanuel Macron.
The unprecedented move follows the Morrison government’s decision to tear up a $90 billion contract to buy 12 French submarines in favour of a new nuclear-powered fleet using technology from the US and United Kingdom.
“This exceptional decision is justified by the exceptional gravity of the announcements made on September 15 by Australia and the United States,” the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said in a statement.
“The abandonment of the ocean-class submarine project that had linked Australia to France since 2016, and the announcement of a new partnership with the United States aimed at launching studies on possible future co-operation on nuclear-powered navies constitute unacceptable behaviour between allies and partners – the consequences of which affect the very conception that we have of our alliances, our partnerships and the importance of the Indo-Pacific for Europe.”
Jean-Pierre Thebault, the French ambassador to Australia, and Philippe Etienne, the ambassador to the US, will return for “consultations”.
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