France’s decision to send its ambassador back to Canberra after recent tensions over a canceled €50 billion-plus submarine deal is a “good thing,” Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday, echoing a series of Cabinet members eager to mend their relationship with Paris.
“France’s presence and significance and influence in the Indo-Pacific isn’t about a contract,” Morrison said. “It’s about the fact they have an actual presence here, in the Indo-Pacific, they have a long-standing commitment and work with Australia across a whole range of different issues,” he added. France is the only EU country to have territories in the Indian and Pacific oceans.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne also voiced optimism over the announced return of French ambassador Jean-Pierre Thébault.
“We will work with France to move forward with our relationship. We recognize this will take time and ongoing engagement following our submarine decision. The return of the ambassador is a welcome step in this process,” Payne said in a statement.
“We welcome back the French ambassador to Canberra, and hopefully, we can move beyond our recent disappointments,” Australian Federal Treasurer John Frydenberg said, according to the South China Morning Post.
French French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who called the submarine deal fallout a “stab in the back,” did not set a date when he announced Thebault’s return to Canberra on Wednesday, but he is sending him with a clear assignment.
“I have now asked our ambassador to return to Canberra with two missions: to help redefine the terms of our relationship with Australia in the future, and to defend our interests in the concrete implementation of the Australian decision to end the program for future submarines,” Le Drian said.
In September, France called back its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia in response to Canberra’s surprise decision to scrap its massive contract with Paris in favor of a partnership with the U.S. and the U.K., dubbed AUKUS. U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry told French television that his boss, U.S. President Joe Biden, “had not been fully aware” of what would transpire after the U.S. snatched the deal from France.