Morrison tries unsuccessfully to speak to Macron amid rift

Sydney, Australia, Sep 23 (EFE).- Australia’s prime minister said he has tried unsuccessfully to speak with the French president after the crisis sparked last week by Canberra’s cancellation of a contract for the construction of submarines awarded to a French company.

Scott Morrison, who is on an official tour to the United States, told reporters in Washington on Thursday (Australia time) that although his government has tried to reach out to Emmanuel Macron, “the opportunity for that call is not yet.”

“But we’ll be patient. We understand their disappointment and that is the way you manage difficult issues,” Morrison added, referring to the suspension of that mega-contract following 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.

France has described the decision as a “betrayal” and recalled its ambassadors to the US and Australia in protest of the new deal, although relations between Paris and Washington seem to be on the mend after a conversation between US President Joe Biden and Macron on the phone on Wednesday.

During the conversation, Biden “acknowledged that there could have been greater consultation” with France before the signing of the AUKUS pact, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said without confirming whether he apologized to the French president.

According to Morrison, this reconciliation occurred because the US and France are part of the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO), unlike Australia, and “there are certain expectations amongst NATO partners about how they’re engaged with each other on national security issues.”

When asked if he will apologize to Macron, Morrison limited himself to saying that he “acted in accordance with Australia’s national security interests.”

“We’ve acted in accordance with what we were able to do under the contract and will honor the obligations that flow from those decisions in the contract” for the construction of 12 conventional submarines awarded to the French Naval Group, he added.

For France, the AUKUS pact, from which it is excluded, represents an industrial and geostrategic setback, since it marginalizes it in an area where it has a territorial presence and sovereignty over a large maritime space, including numerous archipelagos and islands, among them French Polynesia and New Caledonia.

Beyond its political consequences, the French government also promises to be tough with Australia in negotiations over the breach of the contract, which according to the French defense ministry, will cost Canberra some 900 million euros ($1.05 billion) in payments to the Naval Group for preliminary studies. EFE


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