Australia Didn't Get 'Authorisation' to Proceed With Its Submarine Deal With France, Letter Claims
11:31 GMT 02.10.2021 (Updated: 13:24 GMT 06.08.2022)
In mid-September, Australia angered France after Canberra abandoned a $66 billion agreement on submarines with Naval Group in favour of a partnership with the US and the UK under a new trilateral security and defence alliance, AUKUS.
Last month, Australia warned the French contractor Naval Group
it didn't get the go-ahead to proceed with the two's submarine deal hours before the agreement was cancelled, a letter has revealed.
The 15 September letter, sent by the Australian Ministry of Defence to Naval Group and now obtained by The Guardian, contained a statement from Royal Australian Navy Commodore Craig Bourke, director general of the Future Submarine Programme.
He reportedly noted that "the matters addressed in this correspondence do not provide any authorisation to continue work", an apparent nod to the Australian government's green light for the Defence Ministry's further collaboration with Naval Group.
This followed developments on 30 September, when French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a parliamentary hearing that "everything I have told you is confirmed by the letter I received on 15 September from the Australian Ministry of Defence that said everything is okay [,] let's continue".
He added that this indicates "someone lied" about the matter, adding, "something doesn't add up and we don't know what".
Le Drian recalled that Naval Group had received the letter on the same day the submarine contract was broken, stressing that Australia was "satisfied" with the strategic review of the Naval Group submarines and was ready for the "rapid signature for the second phase of the programme".
According to him, Canberra's decision to break the multibillion submarine deal was met with "stupor" in France.
The remarks came after France's top diplomat noted last week that the restoration of confidence between the two nations "would take time and action".
25 September 2021, 15:34 GMT
France withdrew its ambassadors
to the US and Australia after Washington, Canberra, and London announced the AUKUS pact, which will enable Australia to build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines in domestic shipyards using American and British reactor technology.
The French Foreign Ministry slammed the surprise agreement, calling it a "stab in the back” and the three countries' behaviour "unacceptable". It later scrapped a planned Anglo-French defence summit as well.