A letter previously referenced by the two countries’ officials, which France said indicated that Australia would approve the submarine contract, contained no such references, media say, in making the document public.
The diplomatic spat between Canberra and Paris continues, with a letter to the French naval group about the now infamous submarine deal being published by Australian news outlets on Saturday.
The document, released to The weekend Australian and the local edition of the guard by the country’s Ministry of Defense under freedom of information laws, does not contain any mention of the Australian government’s plans to proceed with the contract.
“The matters discussed in this correspondence do not give any authorization whatsoever for the continuation of the work, or for compensation for that work.,” wrote the Director General of the Future Submarine Program, Commodore Craig Bourke of the Royal Australian Navy, as quoted by The Guardian. The letter, dated and sent on September 15, ahead of communications between Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and French President Emmanuel Macron, only acknowledged the French contractor’s performance in the initial phase.
“The document does not refer to a decision to approve the next stage, and does not even mention it” according to to the media.
The letter “seems carefully formulated, with a focus on contractual mattersAccording to The Guardian, claiming to have a copy of it, although it reports that some of its credentials had been obscured by the releasing agency, suggesting this was due to necessary trade secret protection.
Australian defense officials have previously told Reuters that the correspondence made no further commitments,”which remained subject to the announcement of decisions by the Australian Government.”
Last month, French authorities said there had been reassurance from the Australian side regarding the multi-billion-euro deal, and the decision to cancel it was a “stab in the back.” French defense spokesman Hervé Grandjean said the letter in question was reassuring about the next step that would be taken in closing the deal:In short: forward to the launch of the next phase of the contract”, and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian that the document confirmed Canberra’s readiness for a “quick signature.”
“Everything I have told you is corroborated by the letter I received from the Australian Department of Defense on September 15, which read: ‘Everything is fine – let’s continueLe Drian told a parliamentary hearing this week, adding that “someone [had] lied.”
The decision to end the submarine agreement with France and create a new agreement between Australia, the US and the UK, known as AUKUS, has sparked a large-scale diplomatic argument, with a number of nations lining up. One of the most recent developments in the wake of the spat is the suspension of trade talks between Canberra and the European Union.
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