France accused Australia of lying shortly before Canberra canceled a major submarine contract, with France’s foreign minister declaring “someone lied”.
With no sign of any imminent easing of tension between the two countries, Jean-Yves Le Drian told a parliamentary hearing that Australia had never expressed doubts about the €56 billion (A$90 billion) submarine contract or the Indo-Pacific Strategic Agreement before the agreement was broken. . bypass.
“Everything I told you was confirmed by the letter I received on 15 September from the Australian Department of Defense which said all is well, let’s move on,” said Le Drian.
This indicates that “someone lied,” the French foreign minister said. “There is something that has no value and we don’t know what,” he added.
Le Drian reiterated that French contractor Naval Group had received a letter on the same day the contract was terminated saying that Australia was “satisfied” with the strategic review of submarines and was ready to “quickly sign the second phase of the programme”.
As a result, he said, the decision to terminate the multibillion-dollar submarine contract was met with “stunned” in France.
The message in question has not been made public. The Guardian has contacted the Australian government for comment, but has previously downplayed the message.
Last week, an Australian Department of Defense spokesperson told the Guardian: “On 15 September 2021, Naval Group was notified that a formal exit from the system review had been achieved as required under the contractual arrangements in place at the time.”
“This correspondence did not indicate or authorize the commencement of the next phase of the programme, which remains subject to the announcement of Australian Government decisions,” the spokesperson added.
Australian Prime Minister, Scott MorrisonHe has repeatedly defended the implications of joining the United Kingdom and the United States to arrange a new defense cooperation to deliver nuclear-powered submarines.
Morrison asserts that he acted in the interests of Australia’s national security at a time when the strategic outlook in the Indo-Pacific was deteriorating, while acknowledging France’s “disappointment”.
But Le Drian said until one day he called it “betrayal”, Australia was reassuring France that all was well.
He reiterated that what was at stake was much more than a commercial contract, and involved a broader strategic relationship between the two countries.
Le Drian said Australia had “requested conventional submarines” as opposed to nuclear-powered ships. This is a reference to the specifications set by the Australian government when it launched a competitive evaluation process for a future submarine project in 2015.
“These are the facts and they speak for themselves,” Le Drian told the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defense and Armed Forces Committee, Senat. He added that the Australian decision to abandon a partnership with France for an agreement with the United States means that it has relinquished its defense sovereignty.
Le Drian repeated several times that Okos The deal represents a “total loss of sovereignty” for Australia.
“It’s not just a breach of contract, it’s a betrayal and a breach of trust,” he said.
The effect is that Australia relinquished its sovereignty and jumped into the unknown by choosing technology that it does not and will not control in the future. This puts her at the mercy of American politics.”
Le Drian said France still did not know what role the UK would play in the project.
“The ball is in the British camp. If they want to move forward, trust must be rebuilt.”
Le Drian said France “is waiting for strong action, not just words.” He said the French ambassador would return to Australia “when we have a review”. The French ambassador returns to the United States this week. Both have been summoned for consultations in France “to show the gravity of this betrayal and breach of trust”.
He said the US strategy in the Indo-Pacific region is based on “confrontation, even military confrontation” and said France wanted to work with “other actors in the Indo-Pacific” to combat Chinese expansion in the region.
The minister said that France enjoys the support of the 27 European Union countries. They fully understood this crisis and this was not just friendly support with France… They understood that what was at stake. This is a strategic European crisis.”
Earlier, an Elysee official said that any future talks between Emmanuel Macron And Morrison on the implications of Canberra’s decision to tear up the submarine deal should be “seriously prepared” and have “core”.
Australian Trade Minister, Dan TehHe has also struggled to secure a meeting with his French counterpart during an upcoming trip to Paris, where he will also attend relevant OECD and WTO meetings. “It remains an open invitation,” Tehan said on Saturday.