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Morrison hasn't spoken to French PM about torpedoed subs deal


Prime Minister Scott Morrison still hasn’t spoken with Emmanuel Macron a week after enraging France by tearing up a $90 billion deal to build submarines in Adelaide.

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While France is sending its ambassador back to the US after a conciliatory phone call with President Joe Biden, it isn’t following suit with Australia.

Morrison is hopeful of re-engaging with the French president but expects to wait for a while.

“The opportunity for that call is not yet. But we’ll be patient,” the prime minister told reporters in Washington DC on Thursday morning, Australian time.

“We understand their disappointment and that is the way that you manage difficult issues. It’s a difficult decision.”

Australia was accused of blindsiding France over last Thursday’s shock announcement that it had signed a new landmark security pact with the United States and United Kingdom, dubbed AUKUS.

As part of the deal, Australia tore up a contract for French firm Naval Group to build 12 diesel-electric submarines in Adelaide and opted for nuclear-powered submarines with US or UK assistance.

France recalled its ambassadors from Australia and the US in retaliation to the announcement, saying it had been “stabbed in the back” by allies.

In a subsequent call with France, Biden agreed consulting that country ahead of the announcement could have prevented the diplomatic row.

Morrison welcomed the US call, which he said helped reinforce the important role France and Europe played in the Indo-Pacific.

“Our door is wide open. Our invitation is there. We understand the hurt and the disappointment,” he said.

But the prime minister expected to wait a while for his own chat with Macron.

“I know that will be some time before that occurs, but we will patiently pursue those opportunities because we want to work together,” he said.

“I look forward when the time is right and when the opportunity presents that we will have a similar discussion.”

Morrison was also confident of securing the necessary political backing from US politicians for the sharing of nuclear technology after meeting with House speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“The support on the Hill, of course, in the US system of government, will be absolutely necessary as we progress this important partnership,” Morrison said.

He will meet with world leaders including Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Washington.

Morrison will also take part in a virtual meeting with Pacific Islands Forum leaders and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

-with AAP

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