Australian PM to visit France to 'reset' relations after subs row

JUN 24, 2022 LISTEN

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is to meet President Emmanuel in France next week as his new Labor government looks to repair relations strained last year when Australia scrapped a French submarine deal.

Albanese travels to Europe on Sunday for the NATO summit in Madrid on 29-30 June, and will make a detour to Paris to continue mending fences after a major diplomatic spat with France over a submarine deal.

Australia's decision to cancel the 56-billion-euro deal with France's Naval Group and choose an alternative deal with the United States and Britain to buy nuclear submarines left the relationship between the two countries in tatters.

"We do need to reset, we've already had very constructive discussions," PM Albanese told ABC television in an interview late on Thursday, confirming he had accepted an invitation from Macron to visit Paris.

Compensation payout

Albanese, in power for just over a month, confirmed a fortnight ago that the government would pay the French shipbuilder €555 million in compensation over the submarine deal – valued at $40 billion in 2016 and reckoned to cost much more now – in his efforts to repair the rift.

"It is important that reset occur. France, of course, is central to power in Europe, but it's also a key power in the Pacific, in our own region as well ... Next week's visit is a very concrete sign of the repair that's been done already," Albanese said.

Australia was invited to the NATO meeting along with some other non-NATO members as the alliance looks to strengthen its ties in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Amid reports he might also visit Ukraine, Albanese said the government was "getting national security advice on that".

One of the largest non-NATO contributors to the West's support for Ukraine, Australia has been supplying aid and defence equipment and has banned exports of alumina and aluminium ores, including bauxite, to Russia.

(with Reuters)

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