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France rebukes Australia after it ditches submarine deal

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LONDON — France is not holding back showing its disappointment with Australia after it abruptly ended a submarine contract in order to sign a new deal with the U.S. and U.K.

“It was a stab in the back. We had established a relationship of trust with Australia. This trust has been betrayed,” Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s minister of foreign affairs, told radio station Franceinfo Thursday morning.

Australia had signed a contract with French shipbuilder Naval Group in 2016 to build a new fleet, at a cost of $40 billion, according to Reuters. Both sides had confirmed the deal a couple of weeks ago. However, Canberra has now decided to scrap that agreement and join forces with the U.S. and Britain.

Late on Wednesday, the three nations announced a new security partnership where Australia will receive new nuclear-powered submarines. The deal with France would have provided conventional submarines.

“We intend to build these submarines in Adelaide in close cooperation with the U.K. and the U.S. But let me be clear, Australia is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Twitter.

PARIS, FRANCE – JUNE 15: French President Emmanuel Macron (R) welcomes Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison (L) prior to a working dinner at the Elysee Presidential Palace on June 15, 2021.

Chesnot | Getty Images News | Getty Images

He added that France is a “good partner” and that the new deal was motivated by “a changed strategic environment,” according to France 24.

The French Embassy in Washington also canceled a gala at their sprawling compound over frustration with the new trilateral partnership, a French official confirmed to CNBC.

The event, which was slated to commemorate the “240th Anniversary of the Battle of the Capes,” will no longer take place Friday at the embassy.

“Other parts of the celebration are still ongoing,” the official said, including a wreath-laying ceremony in Annapolis. A French destroyer will pull into Baltimore harbor on Monday as will a French submarine at Norfolk harbor.  

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Thursday that he and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had spoken to their French counterparts about the new security pact ahead of its unveiling.

“I’ll leave it to our Australian partners to describe why they sought this new technology. But as the president said and I want to emphasize again, we cooperate incredibly closely with France on many shared priorities in the Indo-Pacific but also around the world,” Blinken said.

“We’re going to continue to do so, we place fundamental value on that relationship, on that partnership and we will carry forward in the days ahead,” the nation’s top diplomat added.

Bitter relations

U.S. President Joe Biden made sure to reference France when presenting the new deal on Wednesday, saying the European nation will remain a key partner in the Indo-Pacific region.

In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said Thursday that the relationship with…

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