‘A new low’: France rebukes Australia over text message leak

Sydney, Australia, Nov 3 (EFE).- France’s ambassador to Australia rebuked Canberra on Wednesday over the leak of a text message sent by President Emmanuel Macron to counterpart Scott Morrison, as well as its scrapping of the bilateral submarine deal.

“This is an unprecedented new low in terms of how to proceed and also in terms of truth and trust,” Jean-Pierre Thebault said at the National Press Club in Canberra.

Thebault was referring to Monday’s leak of the text message to Australian media that Macron sent to Morrison two days before Canberra’s cancellation of a $66 billion agreement to acquire 12 French conventionally-powered submarines.

“You don’t behave like this on personal exchanges of leaders. Doing so also sends a very worrying signal for all heads of state – beware, in Australia there will be leaks and what you say in confidence to your partners will be eventually used and weaponized against you one day,” he said.

Macron has accused Morrison of lying to him over the deal, while the Australian leader denies Macron was blindsided.

According to Australian media, two days before the announcement of the cancellation of the contract along with the mid-September signing of the AUKUS defense deal, Macron had asked Morrison in a text message: “Should I expect good or bad news for our joint submarines ambitions?”

Thebault added that the content of the message “demonstrates that until the last minute we did not know where things were heading to” and insisted that “deceit was intentional” on the part of the Australian government.

The diplomatic relationship between France and Australia is in bad shape since the cancellation of the contract sealed in 2016.

Canberra scrapped the deal in September in favor of developing nuclear-powered submarines within AUKUS pact signed with the United States and the United Kingdom.

“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 datas, the way it was handled was plainly a stab in the back,” Thebault said.

The French diplomat added that it is now up to the Australian government to take steps to “rebuild something substantial, but we start from far away, unfortunately.”

The AUKUS alliance is aimed at countering China in the Indo-Pacific region and, through it, Australia has access to US-made nuclear-powered submarines.

France, which has territories in Indo-Pacific, was left out of the pact and described it as a betrayal of trust. It recalled its ambassadors in Washington and Canberra, including Thebault, but they later returned to their posts.

On Friday, Macron met with US President Joe Biden, who told him he had been “under the impression” that France had been informed that Canberra was canceling the submarine contract, and admitted that the handling of the matter had been “clumsy.” EFE


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