French ambassador to return to Australia ‘with two missions’ after AUKUS row

By Jackson Graham

Thursday October 7, 2021

The French foreign minister confirmed in French parliament that the ambassador to Australia, Jean-Pierre Thebault, would return to Australia.
The French foreign minister confirmed in French parliament that the ambassador to Australia, Jean-Pierre Thebault, would return to Australia. (AP Photo/David Gray)

France’s ambassador will return to Canberra after withdrawing when Australia scrapped a $90 billion submarine contract between the two nations. 

The French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, confirmed at a French parliamentary hearing that the ambassador to Australia, Jean-Pierre Thebault, would return. 

Le Drian had labelled Australia’s decision to end the submarine deal in favour of an agreement with the US and UK as “a stab in the back” last month and said on Wednesday the ambassador would return with strict instructions. 

“I have now asked our ambassador to return to Canberra with two missions,” Le Drain said on Wednesday. 

He said the instructions were to help redefine the terms of France’s relationship with Australia and to defend French interests in Australia ending the submarine deal. 

Le Drian said Paris had completely reviewed its bilateral relationship with Australia. 

“Starting afresh in our bilateral relations will not have any impact in our determination to remain engaged in the Pacific,” he said. 

French president Emmanuel Macron reportedly still hasn’t accepted prime minister Scott Morrison’s phone calls. 

The French deal would have supplied Australia with 12 diesel-powered submarines but Australia has chosen to pursue a nuclear-powered fleet in a defence program with the US and UK coined AUKUS. 

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told media on Wednesday morning he was pleased to hear the ambassador was returning. 

We have to go ahead together and advance our mutual interests,” Frydenberg said. 

France also recalled its ambassador to the US in the early stages of the row, but agreed to return the diplomat soon after when US president Joe Biden conceded consulting France before announcing the security pact could have prevented the backlash.


READ MORE:

‘Appalling episode’: Former PM puts AUKUS deal in firing line

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