Acting prime minister Barnaby Joyce said Australia did not have to prove its “affinity” and “affection” for the French, because “tens of thousands of Australians died on French soil” during both world wars.
The French government’s anger at the announcement of the strategic partnership between Australia, the US and the UK, known as Aukus, and the subsequent cancellation of the French-Australian $90bn submarine deal, has shown no signs of abating, with the French ambassador saying the nation felt it had been “fooled”.
In his first stint acting in Australia’s top job since returning to the Nationals leadership, Joyce said he understood the French government’s disappointment about the scrapped $90bn submarine deal, but Australia had nothing to prove.
“Australia doesn’t need to prove their affinity and their affection and their resolute desire to look after the liberty and the freedom and the equality of France," Egli ha detto.
“We have tens of thousands of Australians who have died on French soil or died protecting French soil from the countries that surround them both in the first world war and the second world war.
“I never expected they came with a price because the price of those families, the tragedy of those deaths, is without price. It’s without cost.”
Joyce made the comments after Scott Morrison jetted out of the country to the United States to meet Joe Biden.
The Morrison government’s decision to scrap the French submarine contract and enter into a strategic alliance with the US and UK, known as Aukus, “blindsided” the French, who claim they were left in the dark over the changes until the very last minute.
France recalled its ambassador over the decision e has made no secret of its ongoing anger, questioning Australia’s treatment of its allies and partners, while cancelling a defence summit with the United Kingdom.
Nel frattempo, Australia’s diplomats are working to ease tensions over the Aukus deal in the Indo-Pacific, with several of Australia’s partners expressing concern about what the “forever partnership” between the US, the UK and Australia will mean for the region.
Australia’s ambassador to the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), Will Nankervis, is seeking to reassure regional partners including Indonesia and Malaysia the Aukus agreement did not mean a ramping up of defence infrastructure.
“Our commitment to Asean centrality remains as steadfast as ever following the announcement that we will create an enhanced security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom and United States – AUKUS – that will allow us to better share technology and capability,” he said in a statement.
“It is not a defence alliance or pact.”
Nankervis also reiterated that Australia would not be hosting nuclear weapons or changing its stance on nuclear weapons, despite the understanding the Aukus agreement would lead to Australia purchasing nuclear-powered submarines.
“While these submarines will be nuclear-powered, they will not carry nuclear weapons," Egli ha detto.
“Australia does not and will not seek such weapons. Nor do we seek to establish a civil nuclear capability.
“Australia remains staunch in our support for the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Australia will work closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure full compliance with our NPT obligations as a Non-Nuclear Weapon State. We remain committed to reinforcing international confidence in the integrity of the international non-proliferation regime, and to upholding our global leadership in this domain.”
The Asean ambassador also sought to reassure Australia’s regional partners it would continue to partner with them on Asean objectives, including upholding a rules based maritime order.
“Australia is also committed to upholding our obligations under the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, as we have since we acceded in 2005, and to working with Asean and its member states to advance peace and prosperity in our region," Egli ha detto.