‘Maybe we’re not friends’: French Ambassador claims ScoMo offered no warning about AUKUS deal
The former French Ambassador to Australia has ripped into Scott Morrison for his defence of the AUKUS submarine deal, claiming the Prime Minister lied about warning France about it.
Jean-Pierre Thebault, who had been the French Ambassador in Canberra since 2020, was recalled last week after France expressed outrage at being left out of the new nuclear submarine deal between the US, UK, and Australia.
Speaking to Radio National on Monday, Mr Thebault said France had been completely blindsided by Mr Morrison’s decision to accept the new deal.
“We discover(ed) through the press that the most important person in the Australian government kept us in the dark intentionally until the last minute and was not willing to at least have the decency to enter conversation about the alternative,” Mr Thebault said.
“This is not an Australian attitude towards friends.”
“Maybe we’re not friends.”
Mr Morrison had previously rejected that he had not warned France about the new deal, insisting he told French President Emmanuel Macron in June that Australia might scrap its original submarine agreement.
“I made it very clear. We had a lengthy dinner there in Paris about our very significant concerns about the capabilities of conventional submarines to deal with the new strategic environment we're faced with,” the PM told FiveAA Radio last Friday.
“I made it very clear that this was a matter that Australia would need to make a decision on in our national interest.”
But the French Ambassador insisted France had never been warned about the potential for a new deal which would exclude them.
“There have always been discussions about how the program addresses the needs of Australia and it was the exchanges on those subjects that kept us busy until the last minute,” Mr Thebault said.
“But in no way was it said to us that this could lead to an alternative program.
“This should have normally been the case between trusted allies.”
Mr Thebault denied reports that his country intended to lobby the European Union to reject a free trade agreement with Australia.
“No, we're not lobbying Europe to do this,” he told Radio National.
“At this stage negotiations do continue and indeed there is a strong interest I recognise for Australia to have a free trade agreement with the EU.
“Australia should have all reasons to be very much willing to strike an agreement with the EU.”
Originally published as ‘Maybe we’re not friends’: French Ambassador claims ScoMo offered no warning about AUKUS deal
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