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Australia PM hails ‘new start’ in ties with France

PARIS (AFP) – Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese welcomed a “new start” in relations with France as he met President Emmanuel Macron in Paris yesterday, after an acrimonious row between the countries over a submarine contract last year.

“My presence here represents a new start for our countries’ relationship,” Albanese said after arriving at the Elysee Palace. “Australia’s relationship with France matters. Trust, respect and honesty matter. This is how I will approach my relations,” he added.

Macron said that the first conversations between the pair since Albanese’s election in May “mark a willingness to rebuild a relationship of trust between our two countries, a relationship based on mutual respect”.

After acknowledging “difficult times”, Macron emphasised the two countries’ strategic partnership, their shared war history in Europe and their joint interests in stability in the Pacific region.

The statements, which followed a warm greeting between the two men and their wives in the courtyard of the presidential palace, represent a sea change in ties since the departure of former Australian premier Scott Morrison.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and French President Emmanuel Macron. PHOTO: AFP

Macron was left furious last year after Morrison secretly negotiated to buy United States (US) designed submarines and then ditched a landmark contract with France signed in 2016 and worth AUD50 billion (EUR33 billion) at the time.

France broke off diplomatic contacts with Australia and Macron repeatedly accused Morrison of having lied to him during a dinner they had in Paris in June 2021.

Morrison’s actions were marked by “brutality and cynicism, and I would even be tempted to say of unequivocal incompetence”, outgoing French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said as he handed over to his successor Catherine Colonna on May 21.

Albanese announced earlier this month that French submarine maker Naval Group had agreed to a “fair and an equitable settlement” of EUR555 million euros (USD584 million) for Australia ending the decade-old submarine contract.

Canberra has switched to buying nuclear-powered US subs as part of a new security pact with Britain and the US called AUKUS.