France summons US and Australian ambassadors over defense pact

France summons US and Australian ambassadors over defense pact

France is recalling its ambassadors from the United States and Australia to consult on the new defense agreement between the two countries and the United Kingdom. Part of the deal is for Australia to buy a fleet of US nuclear submarines and cancel a $40 billion submarine order with France.

Foreign Minister Le Drian spoke of “unacceptable behavior” and stressed in his statement that the recall of ambassadors was an “exceptional decision”.

The three Anglo-Saxon nations will exchange information on advanced technologies and defense through a new partnership. The agreement is seen as a move of unity against China.

Decision like Trump

Australia already signed an agreement with French shipbuilder Naval Group in 2016 to build a new submarine fleet. This deal was reaffirmed two weeks ago.

The Associated Press, citing anonymous sources, reported earlier today that Australian Prime Minister Morrison had told French President Macron to cancel the submarine deal.

Lu Drian reacted angrily to this announcement yesterday. “Allies don’t do this,” he said. “This brutal and unexpected decision reminds me of what President Trump was doing.” He received support from the European Union’s foreign affairs coordinator, Borrell, who was also not familiar with the British-American-Australian chat.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said today that he understands the French misunderstanding. “But we will continue to work constructively with our French colleagues,” she stressed.

The US government says it regrets summoning the French ambassador and wants to calm things down. “We regret that they took this step,” a government official said. “We will continue to work in the coming days to resolve our differences as we have done at other points during our long alliance.”

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