France cancelled a meeting between Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly and her British counterpart, after Australia scrapped a submarine order with Paris in favour of a deal with Washington and London.
This was reported by Reuters citing anonymous sources.
Parly personally took the decision to drop the bilateral meeting with British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, the sources said.
The French Defense Ministry couldn’t be reached for comment, while the British one declined commenting.
The sources confirmed an earlier report in the Guardian newspaper that the meeting had been cancelled.
The scrapping of the multi-billion-dollar submarine contract, struck in 2016, has triggered a diplomatic crisis, with Paris recalling its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra.
France claims not to have been consulted by its allies, while Australia says it had made clear to Paris for months its concerns over the contract.
French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. President Joe Biden will speak by telephone in the coming days to discuss the crisis, the French government’s spokesman said.
“President Biden asked to speak to the President of the Republic and there will be a telephone discussion in the next few days between President Macron and President Biden,” Gabriel Attal said.
France would be seeking “clarification” over the cancellation of a submarine order, Attal said.
After the initial “shock” of the cancellation, discussions would need to take place over contract clauses, notably compensation for the French side, Attal added.
This was the first time ever that France has recalled its ambassador to the U.S., according to the French foreign ministry.
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a written statement that the French decision, on request from President Emmanuel Macron, “is justified by the exceptional seriousness of the announcements” made by Australia and the United States.
He said Australia’s decision to scrap a big French conventional submarine purchase in favor of nuclear subs built with U.S. technology is “unacceptable behavior between allies and partners.”
Ambassador Philippe Etienne tweeted the announcements are “directly affecting the vision we have of our alliances, of our partnerships and of the importance of the Indo-Pacific for Europe.”
The Biden administration has been in close contact with French officials about the decision to recall Etienne to Paris, National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said.
“We understand their position and will continue to be engaged in the coming days to resolve our differences, as we have done at other points over the course of our long alliance,” she said in a statement. “France is our oldest ally and one of our strongest partners, and we share a long history of shared democratic values and a commitment to working together to address global challenges.”
State Department spokesman Ned Price also stressed the value the U.S. places on its relationship with France and expressed hope that talks between the two sides will continue in the coming days, including at the United Nations General Assembly next week.
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