France accuses Australia, US of 'lying' in escalating crisis over submarines

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (above) said a "serious crisis" was now in progress between the allies.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (above) said a "serious crisis" was now in progress between the allies.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - France on Saturday (Sept 18) accused Australia and the United States of lying in a crisis over a security pact that saw Canberra scrap a contract to buy French submarines in favour of American vessels.

"There has been lying, duplicity, a major breach of trust and contempt," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France 2 television. "This will not do."

A "serious crisis" was now in progress between the allies, he added.

Le Drian was speaking a day after Paris, on the orders of President Emmanuel Macron, recalled its ambassadors to Canberra and Washington, an unprecedented act that revealed the extent of the anger in France over the rupture of the contract.

He described the withdrawal of the ambassadors as a "very symbolic" act which aimed "to show how unhappy we are and that there is a serious crisis between us and to re-evaluate out positions to defend our interests."

"The fact that for the first time in the history of relations between the United States and France we are recalling our ambassador for consultations is a serious political act, which shows the magnitude of the crisis that exists now between our countries," he said.

He also issued a stinging response to a question over why France had not recalled its ambassador to Britain, when London was also part of the security pact that led to the rupture of the contract.

"We have recalled our ambassadors to (Canberra and Washington) to re-evaluate the situation. With Britain there is no need. We know their constant opportunism. So there is no need to bring our ambassador back to explain," he said.

Of London's role in the pact, he added: "Britain in this whole thing is a bit like the third wheel."

Nato would have to take account of what has happened as it reconsiders strategy at a summit in Madrid next year, he added.

France would make a priority now of developing a EU security strategy when it takes on the bloc's presidency at the start of 2022, he said.