Politics

France, still mad about that submarine deal, just recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia

Key Points
  • France said it will immediately recall its ambassadors to the United States and Australia, in protest of a submarine deal unveiled earlier this week.
  • The move came after French officials in Washington on Thursday canceled a gala at their sprawling compound.
  • President Biden this week unveiled the formation of a new partnership between the U.S., Australia and the U.K. that includes nuclear-powered submarines for Australia.
French President Emmanuel Macron attends a press conference with Latvia's Prime Minister (unseen) after their meeting on September 30, 2020 in Riga, Latvia, during Macron's official visit to Latvia and the Baltic region.
GINTS IVUSKANS | AFP via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — France, still mad about the submarine deal Australia struck with the United States and the United Kingdom, has recalled its ambassadors from the U.S. and Australia.

France's foreign minister said Friday that the country immediately recalled the ambassadors in protest of a trilateral security deal that included nuclear-powered submarines for Australia.

"At the request of the President of the Republic, I have decided to immediately recall our two ambassadors to the United States and Australia to Paris for consultations," 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 15 September by Australia and the United States."

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A White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told CNBC that the Biden administration had discussed with French counterparts the matter of recalling French Ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne.

"While we regret that they have taken this step, we will continue to be engaged in the coming days to resolve our differences, as we have done at other points over the course of our long alliance," the official said.

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden helped unveil the formation of a new partnership between the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Prime Ministers Scott Morrison of Australia and Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom joined Biden virtually for the announcement of the partnership. The leaders said that the security partnership would seek to strengthen stability in the Indo-Pacific region as China expands its military might and influence.

The deal also, in part, ends a longstanding submarine contract between Australia and France, replacing it with the new deal between Australia, the U.S. and the U.K.

The U.S. and the U.K. agreed Wednesday to assist Canberra in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines, which will allow Australia's navy to help counter Chinese nuclear-powered vessels in the region.

"It was a stab in the back. We had established a relationship of trust with Australia. This trust has been betrayed," Le Drian told radio station Franceinfo Thursday morning.

The latest development from Paris adds to the fallout.

On Thursday French officials in Washington canceled a gala at their sprawling compound.

A French official confirmed that the event, which was scheduled to commemorate the 240th anniversary of the Battle of the Capes, will no longer take place at the embassy in Washington on Friday evening.

"Other parts of the celebration are still ongoing," including a wreath-laying ceremony in Annapolis, Maryland, the official said. Two other events, involving a French destroyer in Baltimore and a French submarine in Norfolk's harbor, have not been canceled.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters Thursday that he and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had spoken to their French counterparts about the new security pact ahead of its unveiling.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that Austin spoke again with his French counterpart on Friday morning.

"I won't characterize the French side, of course, but it was clear from the discussion that there is still much work to do in terms of our defense relationship with France," Kirby said, adding that the two discussed shared challenges and interests.

— CNBC's Christina Wilkie contributed to this report.