SYDNEY, Sept 19 (Reuters) – Australia on Sunday defended its decision to ditch a multi-billion-dollar order for French submarines and opt instead for an alternative deal with the United States and Britain, saying it had flagged its concerns to Paris months ago.
Canberra’s move enraged Paris, triggering an unprecedented diplomatic crisis that analysts say could do lasting damage to U.S. alliances with France and Europe. It has also riled China, the major rising power in the Indo-Pacific region.
The United States has sought to assuage the anger in France, a NATO ally, and the French government spokesman said on Sunday that President Emmanuel Macron would have a call with U.S. President Joe Biden “in the next few days”. Paris has recalled its envoys to Washington and Canberra for consultations.
“I don’t regret the decision to put Australia’s national interest first,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday.
Morrison said he understood France’s disappointment over the cancellation of the order – valued at $40 billion in 2016 and reckoned to cost much more today – but reiterated that Australia must always take decisions in its best interests.
“This is an issue that had been raised by me directly some months ago and we continued to talk those issues through, including by defence ministers and others,” he told a briefing.
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