France’s Le Drian highlights lasting rift with UK, Australia

PARIS – There has been no improvement in France’s ties with Australia and the U.K. nearly two months after the diplomatic crises that erupted over their new security agreement with the U.S.

“Things have indeed not moved with Australia, whose prime minister is digging in his heels with denial and contradictions,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in an interview with French newspaper Le Monde. “With the United Kingdom, almost a year after Brexit, what strikes me the most is that everything is happening as if their Global Britain strategy involves the whole world, except Europe.”

But, Le Drian said, “Trust is being reestablished with the United States of America.”

He pointed to recent conversations between French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. President Joe Biden, as well as visits U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris paid to Paris since France lost a massive submarine deal as a result of the trilateral security agreement between Australia, the U.K. and U.S.

Contacts between Macron and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison have been less cordial, with the two exchanging accusations of lies and deceit on the margins of the G20 last month.

Le Drian also described a hardening international context, with resurgent rogue powers like Russia and China flouting all established rules — though he avoided calling them out.

“Our competitors have neither taboos nor limits: They project private militias everywhere, hijack planes, blow up satellites, they subjugate peoples, syphon off resources on some continents,” Le Drian said, adding that Europe still had a way to go in order to be able to affirm itself in this context.

Le Drian was also coy on whether Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had decided to use migrants to pressure the EU at the Polish and Lithuanian borders in concert with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as on reported Russian military build-up on the border with Ukraine.

But he defended the resumption of high-level talks between France and Russia during a ministerial meeting in Paris last week, saying that while there are “Deep disagreements” on the Sahel and Ukraine, there are also convergences on Iran, Afghanistan or the Caucasus.



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