French ambassador: Australia made a 'huge mistake' cancelling submarine contract

The French Ambassador to Australia issued a sharp rebuke of country's decision to cancel a submarine contract with France, calling it a "huge mistake," according to a report from The Associated Press. 

Ambassador Jean-Pierre Thebault said that the original agreement was based on sincerity and trust. However, the diplomat said, “This has been a huge mistake, a very, very bad handling of the partnership,” according to the news wire. 

​​“I would like to be able to run into a time machine and be in a situation where we don’t end up in such an incredible, clumsy, inadequate, un-Australian situation,” Thebault said.

Earlier this week, a trilateral agreement between Australia, the United States and United Kingdom was announced, in which the U.S. and U.K. would help Australia acquire nuclear submarines and include cooperation in areas such as underseas capabilities, artificial intelligence and quantum technology.

According to Australia’s Department of Defence, Australia will acquire at least eight nuclear submarines through the deal.

The deal is a blow to France, who was set to help provide 12 diesel-electric submarines under a deal worth roughly $66 billion, the AP noted.

The comments by Thebault were made as he left Canberra, Australia, for a flight to Doha, Qatar. 

France had made the decision on Friday to recall its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia out of protest. France claimed that it had been blindsided the trilateral agreement between the U.S. and the other countries, and French officials claimed they had only become aware of the deal through news reports.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had raised concerns about the capability of conventional submarines when he spoke to French President Emanuel Macron earlier this summer. But Thebault claimed that a move toward nuclear submarines was not indicated by Morris, the AP noted. 

“Australia understands France’s deep disappointment with our decision, which was taken in accordance with our clear and communicated national security interests,” the office of Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement prior to Thebault’s remarks, according to the AP.