A new agreement means each country can access other countries’ military facilities in the Pacific region and increase joint operations.
France and Australia are set to reset their bilateral relationship after a two-year 'cold war’ following a 'backstabbing’ defense deal that saw Canberra walk away from a major military deal to buy submarines from Paris.
This week, foreign ministers Catherine Colonna And Benny Wong It has signed a new agreement to share military bases and training facilities in the Pacific, clearly hoping to put the past few years behind them and move forward.
„We are determined to step up and strengthen our cooperation with partners in the region, and of course, Australia, our number one partner in the region,” Colonna said.
Wong added that Australia is keen to work more closely with the French military, particularly in the Pacific.
speaks in National Press Club Before their meeting, Colonna said the French government had „decided to continue” following the fallout from the failure of the submarine deal.
Relations between the two countries hit rock bottom after former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison angered Paris by pulling a 90 billion Australian dollar (€55 billion) deal for French-built submarines in 2021.
Morrison opted for a nuclear-powered US model under the AUKUS partnership with the UK and US.
Jean-Yves Le Drian, the then foreign minister of France He described the move As in „stab in the back”.
„Colonna’s visit to Australia is a clear signal that France has decided to close the book on a very poor diplomatic maneuver from the Australian side.” John FowlerFormer Australian diplomat and co-founder of the daily global affairs newsletter ’International intriguetold Euronews.
„Of course, Australia is also very happy to move on”.
Colonna described the aftermath of the AUKUS agreement as not „sweet”.
The move prompted France to temporarily recall its ambassador in Canberra. Disgraceful answer French President Emmanuel Macron was asked if he thought Morrison had lied to him about the deal.
„I don’t think so, I know,” Macron replied.
Fowler explains that France’s initial anger at the Australian decision was related to „the shock and subsequent disbelief felt by France at the withdrawal from the AUKUS partnership”.
Australia’s „clumsy diplomacy” gave France „a public target for anger directed more precisely at England and America,” he said.
As the AUKUS security partnership now clearly rests here, Fowler points out that France will try to work with the AUKUS countries rather than risk „looking on the outside”.
„Bilateral tensions are a storm in a teacup… Of course, a change of government in Australia and a foreign minister in France have also helped”.
While Fowler expects there will be some „scar tissue” in the relationship, he doubts it will affect anything going forward.
A two-way road map
The new bilateral road map signed on Monday aims to improve relations in three areas: defense and security. Climate Action and Resilience; and culture and education.
It comes as France seeks to establish a greater presence in the Indo-Pacific to fend off influence from China.
Beijing has recently stepped up military exercises in the strategically important Taiwan Strait, and China’s coast guard has been accused of harassing Philippine fishing boats in the disputed waters.
Colonna called on China to show restraint in its actions in the South China Sea, saying „the world does not need a new crisis”.
Professor Steven L., a global security expert at the University of Southern California. Lamy told Euronews that he was trying to ensure France had a voice in the „new great power competition phase” of world politics.
„They’ve lost influence in many parts of Africa where China, the US and Russia are fighting for influence and access to critical resources, so where else can it go?”
Lamy explains that France has a stake in the region and wants friends.
„With the UK’s exit from the EU, France is looking to become a major global power within the EU as the EU seeks to extend its global influence”.
Last month Australia criticized Beijing for „unsafe and unprofessional” behavior at sea, saying one of its navy divers was injured by sonar pulses from a nearby Chinese warship.
„We are certainly concerned about what happened to the Australian Navy a few days ago, as well as what happened to the Philippines a few weeks ago,” Colonna added.
The French foreign minister also said he was open to resettlement requests from small South Pacific nations threatened by rising sea levels.
Colonna said France watched with „great interest” last month that up to 280 Tuvaluans were given the chance to come to Australia each year to escape rising seas and storms caused by climate change.
But he said he was unsure whether the French Pacific regions of French Polynesia and New Caledonia had the capacity to offer similar concessions.
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