Sydney, Australia, Oct 7 (EFE).- Prime Minister Scott Morrison Thursday said he was confident that the return of the French ambassador to Australia would help overcome the crisis between the two countries.
The bilateral ties took a hit after Australia, last month, canceled a $66-billion contract to construct 12 submarines awarded to France.
France, in retaliation, recalled Ambassador Jean-Pierre Thebault to Paris before announcing Thursday its decision to send him back to Canberra.
Morrison welcomed the French decision, stressing that “the Australia-France relationship is bigger than a contract.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the decision to send the ambassador back would help “redefine the terms of the future relationship” between the two countries and defend French interests in canceling the submarine contract.
France had also recalled Ambassador Philippe Etienne from the United States, who has also returned to Washington.
The ambassadors were recalled ostentatiously for consultations in Paris after Australia suddenly decided to cancel the submarine contract with France.
The decision to cancel the deal came hours after the US, the United Kingdom, and Australia unveiled a trilateral defense agreement that includes an offer to build nuclear submarines for Canberra built with American technology.
Morrison, whose government has spent an estimated $1.8 billion on the project to build diesel-electric submarines commissioned by the French company Naval Group, refused to give figures on how much he would have to pay for the cancellation of the contract.
He insisted that the French “presence and significance and influence in the Indo-Pacific is not about a contract” but “a long-standing commitment and work with Australia across a whole range of different issues.”
Thebault had earlier described the cancellation of the contract as “a huge mistake” that showed “a very, very bad handling of the partnership.” EFE