UPDATED 7:40 AM PT – Sunday, October 10, 2021
France’s ambassador to Australia made his way back to his post in Canberra, but the relationship between the two countries hasn’t been restored to the way it used to be. During an interview in Paris, a day before he returned to Australia, French ambassador Jean Pierre Thebault said he doesn’t understand how he was lied to for 18 months from a so-called ally.
In regard to Australian officials he worked with, Thebault expressed how he felt betrayed that they lied straight to his face for more than a year.
“During 18 months, you could at least have one month saved, you know, to have a frank and honest conversation, which never happened. And that’s the source of the crisis in confidence,” said Thebault.
Despite the cancellation of the Submarine Deal with Australia, France remains determined to protect its interests in the Indo-Pacific region and said it intends to put muscle into Europe’s geopolitical strategy towards China.
Thebault emphasized France and Europe would continue to actively engage with trusted partners in the region including India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. He added among the European countries with interests in the Indo-Pacific region, France has the highest stakes and played a huge role in building a European Indo-Pacific strategy in efforts to be partners of peace and stability within the region.
“We are not a naïve observer of the Indo-Pacific. We are fully involved in the Indo-Pacific, and we will continue to be fully involved in the Indo-Pacific,” Thebault stressed.
“Our relationship was not only about a contract and that is exactly the problem. That has created a breach of trust and the crisis between our countries is that this was only the tip of a much deeper cooperation.”
– Jean-Pierre Thebault, French Ambassador to Australia
— RN Breakfast (@RNBreakfast) October 7, 2021
Beyond the dissolved contract, France feels that longstanding alliances were destroyed, especially their relationship with the U.S, which is their oldest partnership with any country. The French envoy made it clear their ties with Australia still needed to be mended and could take time before their ambassador moves back to Canberra permanently.
“It’s not the fact that Australia might change its ideas. It is the fact that Australia never did speak frankly to its ally about what was at stake,” stated Thebault.
In the meantime, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison vowed to make an effort to restore the relationship between the two countries, even though he’s said he has no regrets about ending the Submarine Deal.
Morrison said, “it was the right decision for Australia and I look forward to ensuring that we work closely with our French partners here in our region where I know they have great passion, great commitment and will continue to play a massive role because they always have.”