French envoy says Australia was ‘childish’ to keep nuclear sub talks with US secret ahead of recalled ambassador’s return

The French ambassador to Australia, who will soon return to the nation after being recalled by Paris amid a spat over a secretly negotiated deal for US-made nuclear subs, said Canberra was “childish” to keep the sale under wraps.

“It’s childish to say that it was impossible to consult France” on the deal, Ambassador Jean-Pierre Thebault told ABC radio on Friday, noting that top American officials agreed that the issue could have been managed better.

They have officially stated things should have been done differently. There should have been consultations.

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A view shows the French submarine Le Redoutable at rest in a drydock (FILE PHOTO) © REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
‘Our relationship is bigger than a contract’: Australian PM welcomes return of French ambassador after sub spat

The terse remark from Thebault came not long after the French government announced that he would soon return to Australia, having been recalled by Paris last month after Australia, the UK and the US unveiled a new deal dubbed ‘AUKUS,’ which will see Washington provide Canberra nuclear-powered submarines, effectively trashing a previous multi-billion dollar arrangement for subs inked with France.

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed the diplomat’s upcoming return to his country on Thursday, saying that bilateral relations between the two nations are “bigger than a contract” and that they remain closely aligned on a series of other issues. Thebault did not appear to reciprocate the warm reception given his comments Friday, however, noting the AUKUS deal created a “deep crisis” and that the two countries will “have to revise everything” in diplomatic terms.

France claims it was blindsided by the AUKUS pact, calling it “stab in the back” and even condemning the three parties involved for mistreating an ally. France also withdrew its ambassador to the US following the tripartite pact announcement.

Washington has attempted some damage control amid the diplomatic fallout, reiterating in a statement that France remains a “vital” ally and one of America’s longest-standing partners. The Joe Biden administration has shown no sign that it would seek to modify the AUKUS arrangement to appease the French concerns, however.

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France is ‘vital partner & oldest ally,’ US says as Australia ‘regrets’ recall of French envoys over nuclear submarine deal

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