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Macron to host new Australia PM to reset damaged ties

French President Emmanuel Macron will this week hold talks in Paris with Australia’s new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, seeking to repair ties badly damaged by the ditching of a submarine contract, an official said Wednesday.

Macron is to host Albanese at the Elysee Palace on Friday morning, a French presidential official, who asked not to be named, told AFP on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid.

The talks at the Elysee will be the first such formal bilateral summit between the Australian and French leaders since former Australian prime minister Scott Morrison in September 2021 ripped up a French contract to build a dozen diesel-powered submarines.

The scrapping of the contract led to an unprecedented crisis between Canberra and Paris and such bad blood that outgoing foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian applauded Morrison’s loss in polls to Albanese, which he said “suits me fine”.

Morrison’s actions were marked by “brutality and cynicism, and I would even be tempted to say of unequivocal incompetence”, said Le Drian as he handed over to his successor Catherine Colonna on May 21.

The switch by Canberra came as it entered a new security pact with Britain and the United States. Macron recalled its envoys to both Australia and the United States over the furore.

France was particularly ruffled as it considers itself to be a key Pacific power thanks to overseas territories including New Caledonia and French Polynesia.

It was also stung as Macron had hosted Morrison at the Elysee in June 2021, months before the stunning about-turn, with French officials saying they were given no inkling even in private of what was to come.

Albanese announced earlier this month that French submarine maker Naval Group had agreed to a “fair and an equitable settlement” of 555 million euros (US$584 million) for Australia ending the decade-old multi-billion-dollar submarine contract.

“It is important that that reset occur,” Albanese told national broadcaster ABC in an interview on June 24.

“France, of course, is central to power in Europe but it’s also a key power in the Pacific.”

Morrison’s predecessor as premier, Malcolm Turnbull, said that the visit was a “big opportunity” to help Paris and Canberra get over a “very bad period” when the French government did not even “pick up the phone.”

Albanese “is not Scott Morrison, so that’s a big advantage”, he told French journalists at an event organised by the Institut Montaigne in Paris.