French, UK defence ministers’ meeting off amid sub row: Paris source
France has cancelled a meeting set for this week between its Defence Minister Florence Parly and her British counterpart Ben Wallace, a source at her ministry told AFP Sunday.
The move comes after the United States, Australia and the UK sparked a full-blown diplomatic crisis with France by announcing a strategic partnership under which US nuclear submarines will be supplied to Australia, effectively sidelining France.
The “meeting planned for this week in London… will not take place due to the French cancelling”, said the ministry source.
Australia’s decision to tear up a contract to buy French submarines in favour of American nuclear-powered vessels sparked outrage in Paris last week.
In an unprecedented move, French President Emmanuel Macron recalled France’s ambassadors to Canberra and Washington.
In London, a Ministry of Defence source said they could neither confirm nor deny the cancellation of the meeting, but added: “The UK remains in conversation with our French counterparts about the meetings.
“We continue to have a strong and close-working defence partnership with France, as they remain trusted allies of the UK and we continue to work with France in many equipment and operational domains.”
The French contract to supply conventional submarines to Australia was worth Aus$50 billion ($36.5 billion, 31 billion euros) when signed in 2016.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has described the snub to France as a “stab in the back”.
The behaviour of US President Joe Biden’s administration had been comparable to that of Donald Trump, whose sudden changes in policy long exasperated European allies, he added.
“There has been lying, duplicity, a major breach of trust and contempt,” Le Drian told France 2 television on Saturday.
Britain, he dismissed as the “third wheel” in the US-Anglo-Australian partnership.