France’s ambassador to Australia, Jean-Pierre Thibault, said on Wednesday that Canberra had acted deceptively when it suddenly canceled a multi-billion dollar contract with Paris to build a fleet of submarines.
“The deception was intentional,” he told media in Canberra. “Because it was more than just providing submarines, it was a joint agreement on sovereignty and involved the transmission of highly classified data, the way it was handled was a stab in the back.
“These things don’t happen between partners, not even between friends,” Thibow said.
Australia in September scrapped an agreement with France’s Naval Group to make conventional submarines, opting instead to build 12 nuclear-powered submarines in a deal with the United States and Britain.
This decision caused a major dispute between the two countries, as a result of which France recalled its ambassadors from Australia and the United States. Tibow returned to Canberra last month, and his speech on Wednesday was the first time he had publicly addressed bilateral relations.
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had “lied” to him about Canberra’s intentions.
Morrison denied this claim, and said he had previously made it clear to Macron that conventional submarines no longer met Australia’s needs.
Morrison and Macron spoke last week, and the Australian leader sought to shake hands with the French president publicly at the G20 summit in Rome at the weekend.
For his part, US President Joe Biden admitted on Friday that the way to deal with the new agreement was “clumsy”, adding that he believed that France had been informed of the cancellation of the contract before the announcement of the tripartite agreement.