After submarine row, Macron tells Albanese he wants to focus on future

French President Emmanuel Macron (left) greets Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at Elysee Palace in Paris. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PARIS (REUTERS) - French President Emmanuel Macron told new Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese he wanted to focus on the future as they try to rebuild relations badly strained by his predecessor's decision to ditch a submarine contract with Paris.

Relations between the two Western allies reached a low last October when Australia cancelled a multi-billion-dollar French submarine programme and opted for submarines to be built with US and British technology instead.

Receiving Mr Albanese at the Elysee Palace in Paris, the pair were asked if Australia should apologise.

"He's not responsible for what happened," Mr Macron replied. "We'll speak about the future, not the past."

The decision to scrap the lucrative contract had incensed Paris.

Mr Macron reacted with fury, recalling the French ambassador to Australia, accusing the then Australian prime minister, conservative Scott Morrison, of lying, while the French Foreign Minister said Canberra had "stabbed its ally in the back".

But Mr Morrison's party lost elections in May and his Labour successor has pledged to rebuild ties with France.

In his statement at the French presidential palace, Mr Albanese thanked Mr Macron for the warm welcome and appeared to allude to the dispute.

"Trust, respect, and honesty matter," he said.

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Paris, which has 1 million citizens living in territories spanning the Indian and Pacific Ocean and 8,000 troops stationed there, had made Australia a cornerstone of its Indo-Pacific strategy to counter the rise of China.

France has supplied war planes to India and Indonesia in particular to build military ties with countries in the region.

On Friday, Mr Macron said the two would discuss defence and geo-strategic issues but also "new projects" in terms of renewable energy, critical metals, space, and the poles, with the two countries both having territories in the Antarctic.

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