The Australian prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has said he is seeking to reset relations with France ahead of a meeting with Emmanuel Macron.
Albanese travelled to Paris for talks with the French president to repair the relationship between Canberra and Paris, which was torpedoed last year by Australia’s sudden cancellation of a multibillion-dollar submarine deal.
The prime minister and his partner, Jodie Haydon, were greeted warmly on the steps of the Élysée Palace by Macron and his wife, Brigitte.
Albanese said before the meeting he was seeking a new start with France. “The relationship between Australia and France is important; confidence, respect and honesty are important. That is how I will approach relations,” he said.
Asked whether he expected an apology from Albanese, Macron replied: “We are talking about the future not the past. He isn’t responsible for what happened.”
Albanese and Macron spoke by telephone in May after the Australian general election but it was the first time they had met for bilateral talks. Macron said it was important the two countries rebuilt their relationship “based on mutual respect”.
The decision by the former prime minister Scott Morrison to cancel the A$90bn (£48bn) deal to buy 12 submarines from the French defence contractor Naval Group caused incomprehension and anger in Paris when it was announced last September, with Macron accusing Morrison of “lying” to him.
Albanese’s Australian Labor government remains committed to acquiring nuclear-powered submarines under the Aukus agreement with the US and the UK – the decision at the heart of the rift with France – but the Australian prime minister, who arrived in Madrid on Tuesday to attend a Nato summit, has signed off on a €550m (A$830m) settlement with Naval Group.
Earlier in the week, Australia’s former leader Malcolm Turnbull told journalists in Paris that Albanese would have an easier time mending relations with the French “because he is not Scott Morrison and that’s a big advantage”.
Turnbull said the prime minister was honest and “never had a reputation for being deceitful and untruthful”.
Source: The Guardian