France says it has decided to recall its ambassadors in Australia and the United States for consultations after officials in Canberra struck a deal with the US and the UK which ended a deal to purchase French-designed submarines.
Foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement that the rare decision taken by President Emmanuel Macron was made due to the seriousness of the event.
Earlier on Friday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected French criticism that it had not been warned, saying he had raised the possibility in talks with the French president in June that Australia might scrap the 2016 submarine deal with a French company.
On Thursday, Australia said it would scrap the $US40 billion ($55 billion) deal with France’s Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines and would instead build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with US and UK technology after striking a trilateral security partnership.
Mr Le Drian described the decision as a stab in the back.
Mr Morrison acknowledged the damage to Australia-France ties but insisted he had told French President Emmanuel Macron in June that Australia had revised its thinking on the deal.
“I made it very clear, we had a lengthy dinner there in Paris, about our very significant concerns about the capabilities of conventional submarines to deal with the new strategic environment we’re faced with,” Mr Morrison told 5aa Radio.
“I made it very clear that this was a matter that Australia would need to make a decision on in our national interest,” he said.
France is about to take over the presidency of the European Union, which on Thursday released its strategy for the Indo-Pacific, pledging to seek a trade deal with Taiwan and to deploy more ships to keep sea routes open.