French ambassador accuses government of ‘intentional deceit’
France’s ambassador to Australia Jean-Pierre Thebault says France has concluded that Australia’s “deceit was intentional” over its scrapping of its existing submarine deal with the European nation.
During an address to the National Press Club, Mr Thebault said his government didn’t hold a grudge with Australia or the Australian people, but did have a complaint against “certain aspects of the ‘Canberra Bubble’ and its ‘Secret city’s’ practices”.
READ MORE: Four-year-old Cleo Smith found alive after vanishing three weeks ago
Mr Thebault’s address comes amid diplomatic tensions between Australia and France, which intensified after French President Emmanuel Macron accused Prime Minister Scott Morrison of lying to him about the submarine deal.
Mr Morrison rebuked the claim, saying he would not tolerate “sledging of Australia”.
Australia dumped the France submarine deal in September in favour of a AUKUS defence pact with the US and UK.
In his first public appearance since returning to Australia, Mr Thebault echoed the French government’s claim that Australia betrayed them.
Mr Thebault said a joint communiqué agreeing to highlight the significance of a submarine deal between the two countries should not have been signed by Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Peter Dutton and their French counterpart just 17 days before the AUKUS deal.
He condemned the Australian government for not discounting negative media reports on the French attack-class submarine project.
He insisted it was not delayed or over-budget, as some reports claimed.
“And because there was far more at stake than providing submarines, because it was a common agreement on sovereignty, sealed with the transmission of highly classified data, the way it was handled was a stab in the back,” Mr Thebault said.
Mr Thebault said there are also issues with the AUKUS agreement.
“The Australian government is abandoning a solid cooperation with well-established parameters for a yet unspecified project, without even a solid transition. A mere ‘project of a project’ Not even the length of the study of the study is certain,” he said.
Mr Thebault said the ball was in the court of the Australian government to mend the now fractured relationship with France.