France’s ambassador to Australia, Jean-Pierre Thebault, says “every commitment” the French has taken with Canberra will be under consideration as he returns to his post.
Thebault withdrew from Canberra after Australia announced it had scrapped a $90 billion submarine contract with France in favour of an agreement with the US and UK last month.
But he is now due to return although exactly when his arrival will be is still unclear.
France has instructed Thebault to help redefine the terms of its relationship with Australia and to defend French interests in Australia ending the submarine deal.
Thebault said “every commitment we have taken” was under consideration upon his return.
“We need to look at everything, we need to be sure that what we built is solid, and won’t be put into question again,” he told ABC Radio National.
“If and when we were talking about the importance of something and we afterwards discovered those words were empty, what was true, what is still real?”
Thebault acknowledged that Australia had the right to exit the contract but said the handling of the situation was “childish”.
“It is the sovereign right of Australia, yes, but the way you do the thing describes how you are,” he said.
“It’s childish to say it was impossible to consult France; if you don’t want to take my word take the word of president Biden, take the word of secretary of state State Blinken — they officially stated things should have been done differently.
“If the US is able to recognise that, why not others?”
He said “Australians remain our friends” but the governments needed to rebuild trust.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has welcomed the return of Thebault to Australia.
“I think that’s a good thing and I think that was always going to happen after the consultations that were had, and look forward to taking the relationship forward,” Morrison said.
“The Australia-France relationship is bigger than a contract. And France’s presence and significance and influence in the Indo-Pacific isn’t about a contract. It’s about the fact that they have an actual presence here in the Indo-Pacific, that they have a long standing commitment and work with Australia across a whole range of different issues.”