France seeks EU support on AUKUS deal

A French official says PM Scott Morrison
A French official says PM Scott Morrison "said nothing to suggest" tearing up a contract in June.

France has cancelled meetings with British and Australian officials and is trying to rally European Union allies behind its push for more European sovereignty after being "humiliated" by the AUKUS defence pact orchestrated by the United States.

The US, Australia and the UK insisted on Monday that the diplomatic crisis wouldn't affect their longer-term relations with France, which is seething over a surprise, strategic submarine deal involving the three countries that sank a rival French submarine contract.

France recalled its ambassadors to the US and Australia for the first time because of the deal, and its anger is showing few signs of subsiding.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, in New York to represent France at the UN General Assembly, is expected to give a news conference Monday to address the situation. He is also meeting with foreign ministers from the other 26 European Union nations in New York, where he will discuss the consequences of the submarine deal and France's vision for a more strategically independent Europe.

France won support on Monday from the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, who told CNN that "one of our member states has been treated in a way that is not acceptable. We want to know what happened and why".

While US President Joe Biden is hosting Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week, he won't see French President Emmanuel Macron, who is not travelling to the UN.

Instead, Biden plans a call with Macron in the coming days, where he will underscore the US commitment to its alliance with France and lay out specific measures the two nations can take together in the Indo-Pacific, according to a senior US administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss planning for the leaders' call.

The official said while the administration understands the French position on the issue, it did not "share their view in terms of how this all developed".

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said a disagreement about "a single decision" would not disrupt a relationship or harm the US' standing across Europe.

The submarine deal, known as AUKUS, will see Australia cancel a contract to buy diesel-electric French submarines and instead acquire nuclear-powered vessels from the US.

The US, Australia and Britain say the deal bolsters their commitment to the Indo-Pacific region, and has widely been seen as a move to counter an increasingly assertive China.

Australian Associated Press