France cancels Washington gala over Australian submarine deal

By Dasblog

PARIS: Furious over the Australian submarine deal, France on Thursday (local time) cancelled a gala, scheduled on Friday to celebrate relationship with the United States.
US President Joe Biden’s announcement of a deal to help Australia deploy nuclear-powered submarines led to the French angrily cancelling the gala at their Washington embassy, to protest what they called a rash and sudden policy decision that resembled those of former President Donald Trump, reported The New York Times (NYT).
An official confirmed the event commemorating the “240th Anniversary of the Battle of the Capes”, which was supposed to take place on Friday evening at the French embassy and aboard a French frigate in Baltimore, will not happen. France’s top naval officer, who had travelled to Washington for the event celebrating their navy’s help with America’s battle for independence in 1781, will return to Paris early instead, reported NYT.
The gala’s cancellation was an immediate reflection of the rage felt among French officials and diplomats in the wake of the submarine deal, which Biden announced at the White House on Wednesday with the leaders of Australia and Britain joining virtually.
Jean-Yves Le Drian, the Foreign Minister, in an interview with Franceinfo radio, called the deal a “unilateral, brutal, unpredictable decision” like those by Trump. That followed a statement from him and Florence Parly, the Minister of the Armed Forces, calling “the American choice to exclude a European ally and partner such as France” a “regrettable decision” that “shows a lack of coherence,” reported NYT.
Le Drian’s indignation reflected the fact that France had its own deal with Australia, concluded in 2016, for conventional, less technologically sophisticated submarines. That USD 66 billion deal is now defunct, but a harsh legal battle over the contract appears inevitable.
“A knife in the back,” Le Drian said of the Australian decision, noting that Australia was rejecting a deal for a strategic partnership that involved “a lot of technological transfers and a contract for a 50-year period.” At issue is whether the United States intentionally hid the submarine deal from the French, reported NYT.
French officials in Washington said the Biden administration blindsided France and accused top American officials of hiding information about the deal despite repeated attempts by French diplomats, who suspected that something was in the works, to learn more.
The degree of French anger recalled the acrimonious rift between Paris and Washington in 2003 over the Iraq war and involved language not seen since then, reported NYT.

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