France Recalls Its Ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia to Protest Submarine Deal

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian gestures as he speaks after a meeting of the Russian-French Security Cooperation Council in Moscow, Russia, September 9, 2019. (Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters)

France announced Friday it has recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia in a demonstration of its displeasure with President Biden’s announcement of an agreement to sell nuclear-powered submarines to Australia without consulting French officials.

French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the decision was made by French President Emmanuel Macron.

“At the request of the President of the Republic, I have decided to immediately recall our two ambassadors to the United States and Australia to Paris for consultations,” the foreign minister said. “This exceptional decision is justified by the exceptional gravity of the announcements made on 15 September by Australia and the United States.”

He added that the partnership is an example of “unacceptable behavior between allies and partners, the consequences of which affect the very conception we have of our alliances, our partnerships and the importance of the Indo-Pacific for Europe.”

Brian Aggeler, the acting U.S. ambassador in Paris, was called to the Foreign Ministry and told that France’s representative, Ambassador Philippe Etienne, would be returning home indefinitely for discussions over the U.S. action and the French response.

The deal, which was kept secret from the French until just before the announcement on Wednesday, effectively cancelled a $66 billion Australian agreement to buy diesel-powered French submarines.

France called the deal “unacceptable” and “incomprehensible.”

The recall came hours after Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations, tried to minimize the damage to the relationship between the U.S. and France.

“We cooperate closely with France in areas of shared priorities both within the Indo-Pacific Region and we’ll continue doing so here at the Security Council,” she stated. “Good friends have disagreements, but that’s the nature of friendship and that’s — because you’re friends, you can have disagreement and continue to work on those areas of cooperation.”

“We will continue to work with our French colleagues on areas of cooperation and address any tensions in our relationship, but we don’t see those tensions changing the nature of our friendship,” she added.

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