France recalls US ambassador in protest at Australia submarine deal


France US Crisis

– (c) POOL-AFP

France is recalling its ambassador to the US in protest at being pushed out of a multibillion-dollar submarine deal with Australia.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced the diplomatic move to recall ambassador Philippe Etienne on Friday night, saying it came in a request from French President Emmanuel Macron.

Diplomatic relations between long-standing allies, the United States and France, are in tatters after the announcement earlier this week that Australia would pull out of a contract to have France supply its defence submarines.

US President Joe Biden announced a new pact between the US, the UK, and Australia on Wednesday that included a long-term agreement to build nuclear-powered submarines for Australia – a deal Mr Le Drian called a “stab in the back” for France.

Explaining France’s decision over the recall of their ambassador to the US, he referenced the “exceptional seriousness of the announcements.”

France say they were not given sufficient warning of the cancellation of the $90 billion submarine contract, which Mr Le Drian called “unacceptable behaviour.”

However, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison claimed he had warned Mr Macron in June that the deal was at risk of collapse because of delays and budgeting problems.

The bitter diplomatic row has escalated dramatically since the announcement of the pact, with France cancelling a gala at its Washington embassy that was planned to celebrate the US-French relationship.

In comments seemingly designed to ease tensions, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday: “We cooperate incredibly closely with France on many shared priorities in the Indo-Pacific but also beyond around the world. We’re going to continue to do so. We place fundamental value on that relationship, on that partnership.”

“France in particular is a vital partner on this, and so many other issues,” he added.

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