French FM 'Angry' With Australia's Decision to Terminate Submarine Contract, Expects Explanations
The French Foreign Ministry has described Australia's withdrawal from the agreement with the Naval Group as a deplorable move that is not in line with the spirit of Franco-Australian cooperation.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has lashed out at Australia's decision to leave a $90-billion agreement on submarines with the French company Naval Group.
"This is really a stab in the back. We have established a relationship of trust with Australia. This trust has been undermined. And today I am angry over the termination of this contract", Le Drian told the radio station France Info.
The minister also stressed that he expects explanations from Australia, as well as the United States.
The statement follows Australia signalling its withdrawal from the Naval Group agreement for cooperation on nuclear-powered submarines under the newly established AUKUS alliance with the United States and the United Kingdom.
The establishment of AUKUS was announced late Wednesday by the leaders of the three nations. The Australian nuclear-powered submarine programme will be the alliance's first major project.
"The pursuit of nuclear-powered submarine technology means that Australia will no longer proceed with the attack-class conventional submarine programme with Naval Group", several Australian ministers, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, said in a joint statement on Thursday.
The ministers added that the Australian government "would like to thank the attack-class submarine workforce, Naval Group, the government of France, and Lockheed Martin Australia for their efforts to date".
"However, accelerating changes to regional security make conventional submarines unsuited to our operational needs in the decades ahead", they stressed, signalling Australia's wish to continue close and positive work with France.
"France is a key friend and partner to Australia and the Indo-Pacific", the ministers added.
Biden Announces AUKUS Alliance
The statement came after US President Joe Biden announced the AUKUS alliance with Australia and Britain to strengthen military capabilities during POTUS' video meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his UK counterpart Boris Johnson on Wednesday.
According to Biden, the first initiative under AUKUS will be delivering a nuclear-powered submarine fleet for Australia, with the three countries expected to spend at least 18 months discussing how this capability can be delivered.
"This initiative is about making sure that each of us has a modern capability - the most modern capabilities we need - to manoeuvre and defend against rapidly evolving threats", the US president noted.
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