Australia says it has settled its dispute with France over the cancellation of a multibillion-dollar delivery of military submarines. New Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in Sydney that the two sides had reached a 555 million euro settlement. The money goes to the French shipbuilding group Navy. It draws a line.
Last year, the previous government withdrew the Navy’s order to build submarines, instead agreeing to supply related technology from the United States and Great Britain. A new security agreement for the Pacific region called AUKUS, comprising Canberra, Washington and London, was announced earlier. According to public reports, their partners were not informed beforehand. As part of the alliance, Australia will also have access to US technology for the construction and operation of nuclear submarines.
“brutal and cynical”
The first naval order in 2016 for diesel-powered submarines – total value: more than 50 billion euros – exploded in the process. There was a sharp disagreement between Australia, Great Britain and the United States on the one hand and France on the other. Paris recalled its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra.
The French foreign minister at the time, Jean-Yves Le Drian, was still sulking after leaving office, and called Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in May to say his defeat had done him a lot of good. Morrison’s conduct in the submarine controversy was “brutal and cynical”. He was tempted to talk about “gross incompetence”.
Albanese, the Labor politician who replaced the conservative-liberal Morrison, now points to China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific. “Given the serious challenges we face regionally and globally, it is essential that Australia and France come together again to defend shared principles and interests.”
Beijing’s ambitions raise doubts
French President Emmanuel Macron and the Albanians recently agreed to rebuild trusting relations between their countries. In addition to strategic challenges in the Indo-Pacific, they also wanted to tackle the climate crisis together, it said after a phone call last month.
China has been trying to include several Pacific island states in its own defense pact. A deal between China and the Solomon Islands, 1000 kilometers off Australia’s coast, has raised concerns in the West. In particular, the US is suspicious of Beijing’s territorial claims and military activities in the region.
jj/kle (dpa, afp, rtr)
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