Australian leader to visit France to mend damaged relations

Australian Leader To Visit France To Mend Damaged Relations

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Thursday he will meet President Emmanuel Macron in France next week to redefine a bilateral relationship that was damaged when the previous Australian government canceled a contract. by submarine.

Albanese said Macron invited him to visit France while in Europe to attend a NATO summit in Spain.

“We need to redefine. We’ve had very constructive discussions. We have concluded the agreements that were in place on submarines,” Albanese told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

France responded with fury when former Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced in September that Australia was canceling an AU90 billion ($62 billion) contract for a French state-owned company to build a fleet of 12 diesel-electric submarines. conventional.

Instead, Australia struck a deal with the United States and Britain to supply U.S. nuclear-powered submarines.

France temporarily withdrew its US and Australian ambassadors. Macron accused Morrison of lying to him about the French contract he was awarded in 2016. Morrison has denied the accusation.

US President Joe Biden told Macron weeks later that the US was “clumsy” in dealing with the Australian submarine alliance. Biden said he thought Macron had been informed long before the deal was announced.

The Albanese Labor Party came to power in the May 21 elections. His government announced two weeks ago that it had agreed to pay France’s Naval Group a €555 million ($583 million) settlement for breaching the contract.

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Parliamentarians from the previous Australian government said the new government paid too much.

Albanese pointed to bureaucrats’ estimates ahead of a Senate hearing in April that the breach of contract would cost AU$5.5 billion ($3.8 billion).

He said his government had reduced that cost to 3.4 billion Australian dollars ($2.3 billion) through the cooperation of Macron and the French government.

“It is important that this redefinition takes place. France, of course, is central to power in Europe. But it is also a key power in the Pacific, also in our own region,” said Albanese.

“It’s just one of the reasons this relationship needs to be nurtured, not damaged. We are committing to do this. And next week’s visit is a very concrete sign of the repair that has already been done,” added Albanese.

Rod Mcguirk, Associated Press

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