Sydney, Australia, Sep 21 (EFE).- Australia’s prime minister said Tuesday he would not discuss his Canberra’s recent cancellation of a submarine contract with a French company with the country’s President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly this week.
“That is not an opportunity for that at this time. I’m sure that opportunity will come in time,” Scott Morrison said upon his arrival in New York City, in reference to France’s response to the abrupt cancellation of the submarine deal which it has described as “treason” and led to the recall of its ambassadors to the United States and Australia.
“But right now, I understand the disappointment, and they’re working through the consultations with their Ambassador who’s returned to Paris and we will be patient about that,” he added.
The Australian leader’s position contrasts with that of US President Joe Biden, who has asked to speak with Macron about the dispute.
The suspension of the $66 billion contract with Naval Group came to light after the announcement last week of a defense agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and United States (AUKUS), which includes the development of nuclear-powered submarines for Canberra.
“It would be naive to think that a decision of this nature was not going to cause disappointment, obviously, to the French,” Morrison said, adding that his government will engage with European and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders, particularly about issues pertaining to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and the arrangements around AUKUS.
Some countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia have said that the agreement could cause other powers to act more aggressively in the region, especially in the troubled South China Sea, while China has said that the defense pact “gravely undermines regional peace and stability, aggravates arms race and hurts the international non-proliferation efforts.”
Morrison expressed confidence that the cancellation of the submarine deal would not affect Australia’s free trade agreement with the EU, currently under discussion, and said that the “issues will be worked through in the weeks and months ahead.”
“It’s not an easy thing to do, to get an agreement with the European Union on trade. I think everyone understands that,” added the Australian leader, who is scheduled to meet European leaders during his trip as well as the leaders of the informal QUAD military alliance, made up of the US, Japan, Australia and India. EFE