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France has recalled its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra for consultations, in diplomatic protest against a new security pact under which Australia will purchase nuclear powered submarines from the United States and cancel its existing contract with Paris.
Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Minister of Foreign Affairs, issued a statement Friday evening saying he had been invited to demonstrate by President Emmanuel Macron.
The said Aukus Agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States “constitutes unacceptable behavior between allies and partners, the consequences of which go to the very foundation of what we do with our alliances and partnerships and the importance of Indo-Pacific for Europe, ”he said.
France is particularly furious at being excluded from the deal because it has had close military cooperation with each of the three countries involved in the new strategic arrangement, including counterterrorism operations in the African Sahel and in Afghanistan.
Macron also took the initiative to push the EU to do more in its own defense by promoting “strategic autonomy”, and worked to prove to Australia and the United States that France is a power in the world. Peaceful. There are island territories, including French Polynesia, across vast expanses of the ocean, as well as nearly 2 million citizens and 7,000 soldiers.
“We have been in close contact with our French partners on their decision to recall the ambassador [Philippe] Étienne in Paris for consultations. While we regret that they have taken this step, we will continue to engage in the coming days to resolve our differences, as we have done at other times during our long alliance, ”an official said on Friday. of the White House.
“France is our oldest ally and one of our strongest partners, and we share a long history, democratic values and a commitment to work together to meet global challenges.”
The withdrawal of ambassadors is a very unusual protest among allies and is generally reserved for use against states deemed to have taken hostile or unacceptable actions that affect the protesting nation.
“This exceptional decision is justified by the exceptional gravity of the announcements made on September 15 by Australia and the United States,” said Le Drian.
The Aukus deal – announced by Joe Biden, US President, Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister, and Scott Morrison, Australian Prime Minister – aims to strengthen defense cooperation in the face of the rise of China.
The leaders of the United States and the United Kingdom had tried to calm down the French on the impact of the agreement and reassure Paris of its continued importance as an ally.
On Thursday, Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, said: “We are cooperating incredibly closely with France on many common priorities in the Indo-Pacific but also beyond, around the world. We will continue to do so. We attach a fundamental value to this relationship, to this partnership.
However, a French complaint concerned the complete lack of consultation which preceded the surprise announcement of Aukus. Just as Biden failed to notify France, the UK, and other allies when the US decided to withdraw all your strength from Afghanistan – sparking an initially chaotic evacuation of Kabul airport – so he and Morrison kept France in the dark about Aukus until the news had already started to flow on the day of the announcement.
The White House did not warn France until it had already informed the media in Washington.
Australia said it understands France’s disappointment but will continue to work closely with the country.
Additional reporting by James Politi in Washington