On the back of a NATO summit in Madrid, Australia's newly elected prime minister Anthony Albanese arrived in Paris on Friday for talks with President Emmanuel Macron, declaring his visit 'represents a new start for our countries' relationship' following the acrimony of a submarine contract cancelled by his predecessor Scott Morrison.
French defence minister Sebastien Lecornu said the settlement 'permits us to turn a page' on the diplomatic row over Australia's decision last year to cancel its purchase of French diesel-powered submarines, worth a total of 35 billion euros, in favour of a strategic pact with the US and UK in which it will receive technology to build nuclear submarines.
Tensions between France and Australia on Tuesday reached their highest point yet over the recent cancellation by Canberra of a multi-billion French submarine sale, after Australian media published a leaked phone text message by President Emmanuel Macron to Australian PM Scott Morrison, in what appeared to be an attempt to imply Macron knew, contrary to what Paris has said, of looming problems with the deal.
After talks with US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, speaking in Washington about the row with France over the AUKUS pact and aborted French submarines sale, called on France to 'prenez un grip about this and donnez-moi un break'.
US President Joe Biden and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron reportedly spoke by phone for half an hour on Wednesday about the tensions prompted by Australia's decision join a military pact with the US and UK leading to the cancellation of its intended purchase of 12 French submarines, after which Paris announced the return to Washington of its recalled ambassador.
As French government anger mounts over Australia's announcement this month that it has abandoned an agreement to buy 12 submarines from France in favour of a defence and weapons pact with the US and UK, French European affairs minister said Paris is ready to block ongoing EU talks for a trade deal with Australia, which he called 'a country in which we no longer trust'.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has rejected accusations by French ministers that his government had shown duplicity in its decision to abandon a 56-billion-euro diesel-powered submarine deal with France, saying he had always been clear about the position of Australia, which has instead opted for nuclear-driven vessels in an agreement with the US and UK.
French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the order to bring the ambassadors back to Paris 'immediately', the first time such a move has been taken regarding the US since the the American war of independence, was made at the request of French President Emmanuel Macron.
The announcement of a US-UK-Australia defence pact to face China's growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region has brought an abrupt and unexpected end to a 56-billion-euro deal signed in 2016 for the sale by France to Australia of 12 submarines, which will now instead be built in the US and UK.