France recalls envoys in U.S, Australia over submarine deal

France said on Friday it had decided to recall its ambassadors in the United States and Australia for consultations after Australia struck a deal with the United States and Britain which ended a $40 billion French-designed submarine deal, Reuters reported.

Foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement that the rare decision taken by President Emmanuel Macron was made due to the seriousness of the event.

According to the Reuters report, a White House official said the US regretted the French decision and that Washington had been in close touch with France over it. The official said in coming days the US would be making efforts to resolve differences with France. However, Australia’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A diplomatic source in France said it was the first time Paris had recalled its own ambassadors in this way. The foreign ministry statement made no mention of the UK, but a diplomatic source said France considered the UK had joined the deal in an opportunistic manner.

On Thursday, Australia said it would scrap the $40 billion deal with France’s Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines, and would instead build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with US and UK technology after striking a trilateral security partnership.

Le Drian has described the decision as a stab in the back.

“The abandonment of the submarine project … and the announcement of a new partnership with the United States aiming at launching new studies for future possible nuclear propulsion cooperation is unacceptable behaviour between allies,” Le Drian said on Friday.

“The consequences touch the very concept that we have of alliances, our partnerships and the importance of the Indo-Pacific for Europe.”

The French announcement came as Australia’s foreign minister Marise Payne was speaking at the American Enterprise Institute think tank in Washington. She gave no sign she was aware of it.

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