Sydney, Australia, Nov 1 (EFE).- French President Emmanuel Macron has accused Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison of lying about the cancellation of a multi-billion dollar submarine building contract in September amid soaring diplomatic tensions.
The two leaders were in Rome for the G20 Summit for their first face-to-face meeting after Australia scrapped the deal for constructing 12 Gallic submarines after Canberra signed a trilateral security pact with the United States and the United Kingdom in September.
Asked if he thought Morrison had lied to him about the sudden controversial cancellation of the contract, Macron replied, “I do not think, I know.”
He spoke to a group of Australian journalists on Sunday on the margins of the G20 summit in the Italian capital.
Under the Aukus security pact, Australia will receive the technology to build nuclear-powered submarines from the US amid the growing Chinese influence in the disputed South China Sea.
France called the cancellation a betrayal and recalled its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra. The ambassadors returned weeks later.
Macron reiterated that the Aukus agreement was a setback not just for France but also for the credibility of Australia and a “very bad news” for the trust that great partners can have with the Australians.
“Your country was shoulder to shoulder with us during the wars. You had fighters with us when our freedom was at stake. We have, we do have the same values,” Macron said.
“I do respect sovereign choices. But you have to respect allies and partners, and it was not the case with this deal. And I think this is detrimental to the reputation of your country and your Prime Minister.”
However, the Australian prime minister insisted that the French president should have known “our shifting views.”
“I was clear that the conventional submarines were not going to be able to meet our strategic interests,” he said, suggesting that he raised the issue with Macron over dinner in June.
Morrison, who met Macron in Rome during the G20 summit, said Australia was already amending bilateral ties and meeting payments for canceling the contract.
US President Joe Biden also met with his French counterpart in Rome, acknowledging that America had been “clumsy” in cutting France out of a deal to sell Australia nuclear-powered submarines. EFE