Friday, November 26

Aukus: Australia sent ‘extremely satisfied’ letter hours before firing French contract | Aukus

France has said Australian military officials sent them a letter confirming they were “extremely satisfied” with the French submarines just hours before announcing that the 56 billion-euro (48 billion pound) contract would be canceled in favor of a deal. defense of the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.

The submarine crisis, in which France said it was “stabbed in the back” by the sudden announcement of an agreement between the US, Australia and the UK to form an Indo-Pacific security group, had sunk the Paris-Washington relationship at its peak. acute crisis since the US-led invasion of Iraq.

The talks took place in New York on Thursday between the foreign ministers of France and the US after French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Joe Biden held a telephone conversation on Wednesday to end a five-day standoff and France agreed to return its ambassador to the United States next week.

But Macron has yet to get a call from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The French company Naval Group will also send an itemized invoice to Australia in the coming weeks for abruptly and unexpectedly canceling its submarine contract, its chief executive said on Thursday.

Hervé Grandjean, a spokesman for the French Defense Ministry, told French television this week: “On the same day that President Biden and Prime Minister Morrison made the announcement, the Defense Ministry and the Naval Group received an official letter, a letter with an official seal on that, from the Australian navy. “

He said this came from the Ministry of Defense and a senior official, “the admiral who oversees the project,” and told France that he had “closely examined the progress status of the contract, in line with the contract, and was extremely satisfied. that the performance of the French submarine was excellent, which clearly means that we were going to move on to the next phase of the contract.

Grandjean added that the announcement later that night of a deal between the United States and Australia showed a lack of preparation for the decision, which he said was likely made within “a tiny circle” in Canberra.

The Australian government confirmed that it had sent the letter to the Naval Group on Wednesday of last week, but downplayed its importance.

A spokesperson for the Australian Defense Department said: “On 15 September 2021, the Naval Group was informed that a formal exit from a system overhaul had been achieved as required by the contractual agreements in force at the time.”

The spokesperson added: “This correspondence did not refer to or authorize the start of the next phase of the program, which was subject to the announcement of decisions by the Australian government.”

The Australian opposition, despite offering conditional support for the government’s decision to change course, accused Morrison of not doing “diplomatic fieldwork” before the announcement.

Penny Wong, Senate leader of the center-left Labor Party, said the revelations about the letter showed why France and other countries “may have doubts as to whether Morrison can be trusted as an honest partner.”

“France should have been shown the due respect of a partner with shared interests from the Indo-Pacific,” Wong said in a speech Thursday, adding that Morrison was now in “damage control.”

There is still no indication that France will reconcile with Australia, which says its decision to opt for more capable nuclear-powered submarines was due to growing concerns about the security prospects in the Indo-Pacific, which is widely understood as the growing China’s military power.

An Elysee official said no decision has been made on the French ambassador’s return to Canberra, while no call with Morrison has been scheduled.

Speaking in Washington DC late Wednesday, Morrison said he had requested a call with Macron, but it had not yet been answered. Morrison said he understood France’s “pain and disappointment”, but the Australian government had to “do the right thing for Australia’s national security interests.”

Morrison said he didn’t think there was “any other way to make that news more attractive.” He sustained his claim that he had told Macron in mid-June “that Australia had great concerns about the conventional submarine’s ability and its ability to meet the strategic environment in which Australia would have to operate.”

However, after a joint meeting in late August, France and Australia issued a statement saying that ministers from both sides “underscored the importance of the future submarine program.”

Morrison said: “I look forward to interacting with President Macron again; I know it will be some time before that happens, but we will patiently look for those opportunities because we want to work together.”

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