Aukus: Australia's new PM vows 'reset' with France after submarine row

By Tiffanie Turnbull
BBC News, Sydney

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Anthony AlbaneseImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Anthony Albanese has promised to mend ties with France after a diplomatic row

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will visit Paris to "reset" relations with France after tensions erupted over a scrapped submarine deal.

Australia in 2021 cancelled a multi-billion dollar contract with a French firm to build the submarines.

It instead signed a new defence pact with the US and the UK, infuriating French President Emmanuel Macron.

He accused then leader Scott Morrison of lying to him, briefly recalling France's ambassador in protest.

Mr Albanese - who was elected in May - will travel to Madrid next week for the Nato summit. He will make a detour to Paris to smooth over ties.

"It is important that a reset occur," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The relationship is key because France is not only a central power in Europe but - like Australia - in the Pacific too, he said.

"We've already had very constructive discussions… Next week's visit is a very concrete sign of the repair that's been done already," he said.

Australia earlier this month announced a €555m ($584m; £476m) settlement with France's Naval Group as compensation for scrapping the contract in favour of the Aukus deal.

Aukus: The basics

  • What is Aukus? It's a security pact between Australia, the US and UK. It allows for greater sharing of intelligence, but crucially it gives Australia secret technology to build nuclear-powered submarines, though not equipped with nuclear weapons
  • What's the aim? Aukus is widely seen as a response to the growing power of China, and an effort to counter its influence in the contested South China Sea
  • Why did it anger France? Australia cancelled a US$37bn (A$52bn; £27bn; €35bn) deal with a French company building diesel-powered submarines, and, what's more, France - a traditional Western ally - found out about the new pact only a few hours before the public announcement

Mr Albanese has also been invited by Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky to visit the country while in Europe.

He said his delegation was getting national security advice before making a decision: "We don't want to cause a circumstance whereby there's risk to Australian personnel by undertaking such a visit."

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Media caption,
Last year, when asked by reporters if the previous Australian PM, Scott Morrison, had been untruthful - President Macron said: "I don't think, I know."

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