Australian PM Morrison still has to discuss submarine contract with French president

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Wednesday that it would take “more time” to resolve the rift with France because of an Indo-Pacific defense deal that cost France a billion-dollar submarine contract.

Morrison commented on a Wednesday telephone conversation between French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Joe Biden with a view to improving relations after France strongly objected when the US, Australia and Britain announced the new deal last week.

“I welcome the fact that they had that discussion and it was discussed between President Biden and me yesterday. So I’m glad the phone call took place, I’m glad he was able to strengthen, not just from a United States point of view, but from all the partners in this new deal that we really want to play a very important role in the Indo-Pacific.”

In the half-hour phone call, France agreed to send its ambassador back to Washington, after last week summoning its ambassadors to the United States and Australia to protest against what France said was a stab in the back by its allies. The two leaders also agreed to meet next month to discuss the best course of action for the parties concerned.

As part of the defense pact, Australia will cancel a multibillion-dollar contract to buy French-made diesel-electric submarines and will instead buy US-made nuclear-powered submarines.

Morrison admits there is still work to be done to mend the relationship.

France has yet to make a decision on its ambassador to Australia. [lt/uh]

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