France recalls ambassadors from US, Australia over submarines row

PARIS (AFP) – France has recalled its ambassadors to the US and Australia for consultation, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced on Friday (Sept 17), after Canberra ditched a deal to buy French submarines in favour of US vessels.

Le Drian said in a statement that the decision was made to immediately recall the two French ambassadors due to “the exceptional seriousness of the announcements made on Sept 15 by Australia and the United States”.

US President Joe Biden announced the new Australia-US-Britain defence alliance on Wednesday, extending US nuclear submarine technology to Australia as well as cyber defence, applied artificial intelligence and undersea capabilities.

The move infuriated France, which lost a contract to supply conventional submarines to Australia that was worth A$50 billion when signed in 2016.

The French ambassador recalls from the United States and Australia, key allies of France, are unprecedented.

France on Thursday accused Australia of back-stabbing and Washington of Donald Trump-era behaviour over the submarines deal.

“It’s really a stab in the back,” Le Drian said on Thursday. “We had established a relationship of trust with Australia, this trust has been betrayed”.

France has also called off a gala at its ambassador’s house in Washington scheduled for Friday.

The event was supposed to celebrate the anniversary of a decisive naval battle in the American Revolution, in which France played a key role.