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Macron in no rush for Morrison talks or ambassador return


French President Emmanuel Macron would be ready to speak with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison if the talks were “prepared in a serious manner,” an official says, but there is no word on when France will return its ambassador to Australia.

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Macron said on Tuesday that European countries must boost their defence plans and make themselves “respected,” as his country opened talks with the United States following the submarine contract dispute that has led to a diplomatic crisis.

“Europeans must come out of their naivety,” Macron said during a news conference in Paris where he spoke publicly for the first time about the AUKUS defence deal between the UK, US and Australia that sank a multi-billion French contract.

“When we are under pressure … showing that we also have power and the capacity to defend ourselves … is simply making ourselves be respected.”

As part of the pact, Australia ill cancel a contract to buy diesel-electric French submarines and acquire US nuclear-powered vessels instead.

In an unprecedented move, France recalled its ambassador to the US in response.

Ambassador Philippe Etienne will go back to Washington DC on Wednesday with a “clear mandate,” Macron said.

Macron said he is to talk again with US President Biden in mid-October, before a scheduled in-person meeting at the end of next month in Europe.

A French presidential official said no date has been set yet for the return of the country’s ambassador to Australia, who also was recalled.

The official said Macron has not spoken with Morrison since the defence deal was announced but that the French leader was ready to hold discussions at some point.

“This conversation (between Macron and Morrison) needs to be prepared in a serious manner,” the official told reporters in a briefing.

“It’s not about whether there will be a conversation but in the current context we need a substantial conversation. We are preparing it.”

-with AAP

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