France recalls ambassadors to US, Australia over submarine spat

PARIS — France has recalled its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia in response to the strategic partnership with the U.K. that displaced a multibillion-euro submarine contract Paris had signed with Canberra.

“At the request of the President of the Republic, I have decided to immediately recall for consultations our ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement. 

“This exceptional decision is justified by the exceptional gravity of the announcements made on September 15 by Australia and the United States,” the statement continued.

The U.S., Australia and U.K. announced on Wednesday a landmark pact that would allow cooperation on military technology but that also saw Australia ditch a deal worth more than €50 billion with France’s Naval Group to build a fleet of submarines, a move Le Drian called a “stab in the back.”

Even though it was Australia that canceled the contract, the bulk of French ire was squarely directed at the U.S.

“The American choice to push aside a European ally and partner like France … shows a lack of coherence that France can only note and regret,” according to a joint statement from Defense Minister Florence Parly and Le Drian that was France’s first official response to the announcement.

The French embassy in Washington also canceled in protest a reception it was hosting on Friday to mark the 240th anniversary of the Battle of the Chesapeake, which commemorates a French naval victory over a British fleet during the American Revolution.

Le Drian will be in New York Monday to participate in the United Nations General Assembly. 

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