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France cancels defense summit with UK over submarine row

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September 20, 2021


10:18 am

France has canceled a Franco-British defense ministers’ summit, which was due to take place this week, after Australia ditched a submarine contract with Paris and instead made a deal with Washington and London, AFP reported on Sunday evening.

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and his French counterpart Florence Parly had been due to hold a bilateral meeting in London and address the two-day Franco-British Council, alongside defense chiefs from both countries. Yet the gathering has now been postponed until a later date.

A U.K. official told POLITICO it was a “postponement, not a cancellation.” No new date has been chosen yet.

“We have a strong and close working defense partnership with the French as trusted allies of the U.K.,” the official added. “They are an important ally.”

Paris is furious after Australia scrapped a troubled contract for new diesel submarines with a French contractor opting instead for a nuclear-powered alternative following secret negotiations with Washington and London.

While France was enraged with Australia and the U.S. and withdrew its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra, its attitude towards the U.K. in the fallout has been dismissive up until now. French officials downplayed the U.K.’s role in the historic deal, amid a backdrop of strained relations between the two countries. “Great Britain in this matter is a bit of a fifth wheel on the carriage,” French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Saturday evening.

President Joe Biden is set to talk to Emmanuel Macron this week to discuss the dispute, a French government spokesperson announced on Sunday.

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