Scott Morrison has doubled down on Australia’s decision to ditch a multi-million dollar French submarine contract, contradicting Joe Biden’s claims about whether Emmanuel Macron was briefed on the move.
Speaking to reporters at the G20 summit in Rome on Saturday, the prime minister insisted that Australia had made “the right decision” in ditching the French submarine contract, despite his handling of the fight enraging the French president. and provoked an implicit public reprimand from Joe Biden.
Morrison insisted that he had kept the Biden administration up to date “with the status of the talks and discussions with the French government.”
But Morrison’s account contradicts an observation by Biden during a meeting with Macron before the G20 summit.
The US president told Macron, with television cameras present, that he was “under the impression that France had been informed” of Australia’s intention to ditch a $ 90 billion contract with the French Naval Group. “long before” the Aukus nuclear-powered submarine pact was revealed. in public.
France has stated that it was “betrayed”, “stabbed in the back” and “duped” by Australia’s decision to ditch the French-backed submarine project worth up to A $ 90 billion (£ 48 billion).
It was unclear whether Biden’s reprimand, which included an observation that the handling of the problem had been “clumsy,” was directed at Morrison or his own senior staff. Australian officials suggest that Biden’s staff did not keep the president informed.
When asked if the US President had actually thrown him under the bus, Morrison stated that Australia had made the right decision to sign the Aukus agreement with the US and the UK and “we are not backing down at all.”
“Australia made the right decision in our interest to ensure that we had adequate submarine capability to address our strategic interests,” the prime minister told reporters.
“I think there was never an easy way for us to get to a point where we had to disappoint a friend and associate; It was a difficult decision, but for Australia it was the right decision.
The line of submarines has followed Morrison from Canberra to Rome. Saturday was the Australian prime minister’s first face-to-face interaction with Macron since the diplomatic eruption over the cancellation of the Naval Group contract.
Macron has scheduled a series of bilateral meetings with leaders during the G20 summit, but not with Australia. The two met briefly and informally before an official photograph of the G20 leaders.
Morrison Says Covid Origins Must Be Found
Morrison used his opening remarks at the G20 summit to declare that the world needs to identify the origins of Covid-19 to provide the best protection against another deadly pandemic.
He said an investigation was not “about guilt, but about understanding how it came about.”
“We not only need to end this pandemic, we also need to make sure we don’t have another,” Morrison said Saturday. “We also need improved surveillance and a stronger, more independent and more transparent World Health Organization.”
The Australian government’s call at the start of the pandemic for independent researchers to be allowed into Wuhan to investigate the origins of the virus angered Beijing, and was one of the factors behind a significant deterioration in the relationship with China.
At the G20 on Saturday, the prime minister said Australia supported a recommendation by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response to give WHO broad powers to investigate pathogens with pandemic potential “in all countries, without prior approval” .
The Prime Minister of Australia also met with the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo. The two leaders probed regional concerns about the potential of the controversial Aukus submarine pact to accelerate a regional arms race.
In addition to French fury over the submarine snub, Indonesia and Malaysia have worried about Aukus. Neighbors in the region are concerned that it may violate Australia’s longstanding commitment to nuclear non-proliferation. But Australian officials believe the initial concerns have been greatly ameliorated.
During Saturday’s conversation with the Indonesian president, Morrison pointed to Australians’ desire to return to Bali now that restrictions on international travel were easing.
Ahead of the Cop26 summit, where Australia is expected to seek more technology partnerships and reveal funding for projects in the region, Morrison and Widodo also discussed, according to Australian officials, how technology will “play a critical role in addressing climate change, particularly in the developing world. “