CANBERRA(REUTERS) – Australian media on Tuesday (Nov 2) published messages between French President Emmanuel Macron and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, as Canberra seeks to push back against allegations it lied to Paris about a multibillion-dollar submarine contract.
Australia in September cancelled a deal with France’s Naval Group, opting instead to build at least 12 nuclear-powered submarines after striking a deal with the United States and Britain.
The cancellation caused a major bilateral rift, and Mr Macron on Sunday said Mr Morrison had lied to him about Australia’s intentions, a unprecedented allegation among allies. Mr Morrison has denied the claim.
According to a source familiar with the messages, when Mr Morrison tried to set up a call with Mr Macron about the submarine contract on Sept 14, two days before the deal with the US and Britain was announced, Mr Macron responded with a message saying: “Should I expect good or bad news for our joint submarines ambitions?”
The message with Mr Morrison’s response was not leaked.
The source declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.
France has said Australia did not attempt to inform it of the cancellation until the day Canberra announced its deal with the US and Britain.
“There is no doubt Morrison needed to put his front foot forward and convince Australians and allies that he wasn’t being duplicitous and lying, but there was grave concern that the project would not be completed,” said political science professor Haydon Manning, at Flinders University in South Australia.
This month, the European Union postponed the next round of talks on a potential free trade deal for a second time, amid simmering anger over Canberra’s decision to cancel the contract with France.
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