Australia pushed back Sunday against France’s cries of betrayal over a canceled submarine deal, arguing Paris should have been well aware of Canberra’s reservations.
“I think they would have had every reason to know that we had deep and grave concerns that the capability being delivered by the Attack Class submarine was not going to meet our strategic interests,” Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters Sunday, according to Agence-France Presse.
“We made very clear that we would be making a decision based on our strategic national interest. I don’t regret the decision to put Australia’s national interest first. Never will,” he added.
Morrison’s comments are the latest in an escalating diplomatic crisis between France, Australia and the United States over Canberra’s cancellation of a deal worth more than €50 billion with France’s Naval Group to build a fleet of submarines. The move came after Washington, London and Canberra announced a landmark pact to foster cooperation on military technology.
Saturday evening, French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian slammed — yet again — Australia and the U.S. on TV channel France 2.
“There has been a lie, there has been duplicity, there has been a major breach of trust, there has been contempt,” he said, alluding to media reports that the countries had hidden months of negotiations from France. Earlier Saturday, France’s Ambassador to Australia Jean-Pierre Thébault had likened the deal cancellation to “treason.”
Other Australian top officials similarly rejected the French accusations that the Australian government had lied.
Canberra was “upfront, open and honest” with Paris about concerns over the deal, Australia’s Defence Minister Peter Dutton claimed on Sunday, Reuters reported.
Australian Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said France was informed about the deal’s fallout “at the earliest available opportunity before it became public.” He conceded, however, that the parallel negotiations with the U.S. were secret, given the “enormous sensitivities.”
On Friday, France recalled its ambassadors to Australia and the U.S. in protest over the new pact.