‘I don’t think, I know’ Bitter Macron accuses Australia PM of ‘lying’ after Brexit triumph

G20: Boris responds to Macron’s call to punish UK for Brexit

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The French President met with Scott Morrison in Rome for the G20 meeting for the first time since Australia scrapped the multi-billion dollar deal with France as part of a new security alliance with Britain and the United States unveiled in September.

The alliance, dubbed AUKUS, which could give Australia access to nuclear-powered submarines, caught Paris off guard, prompting it to recall ambassadors from Washington and Canberra amid accusations that France had been betrayed.

“I don’t think, I know,” Macron said in response to a question whether he thought that Morrison had lied to him “I have a lot of respect for your country,” he said in comments on Sunday to a group of Australian reporters who had travelled to Italy for the summit of leaders of the top 20 economies.

“I have a lot of respect and a lot of friendship for your people. I just say when we have respect, you have to be true and you have to behave in line, and consistently, with this value.”

Morrison told a media conference later the same day that he had not lied, and had previously explained to Macron that conventional submarines would no longer meet Australia’s needs.

The process of repairing ties had begun, he added.

Mr Morrison and President Macron spoke last week before the Australian prime minister publicly sought a handshake with his French counterpart at the G20 meeting.

On Monday, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce urged France to view the matter in perspective.

“We didn’t steal an island, we didn’t deface the Eiffel Tower. It was a contract,” Mr Joyce told reporters in Moree.

“Contracts have terms and conditions, and one of those terms and conditions and propositions is that you might get out of the contract.”

Mr Joyce spoke just hours before Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne met France’s ambassador to Canberra.

Ms Payne said their hour-long meeting focused on efforts to repair the relationship.

On Friday, US President Joe Biden said the handling of the new pact had been clumsy, adding that he had thought France had been informed of the contract cancellation before the pact was announced.

President Biden and the French President shared warm words at a bilateral meeting in Rome but Mr Macron said later that France’s trust needed to be regained by deeds, not words.

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“I think what happened was, to use an English phrase, what we did was clumsy. It was not done with a lot of grace,” President Biden said.

“I was under the impression certain things had happened that hadn’t happened. And – but I want to make it clear: France is an extremely, extremely valued partner – extremely – and a power in and of itself.”

The US leader also noted the United States does not have an older and more loyal ally than France and said there is no place where the two nations cannot cooperate.

“I was under the impression that France had been informed long before that the deal was not going through. I, honest to God, did not know you had not been,” Mr Biden told Mr Macron.

President Macron said his meeting with the US President was “important” and that it was essential to “look to the future” as his country and the United States work to mend fences.

The two leaders showed warm body language, with clasped hands and arms on each others’ backs when they greeted one another.

They shook hands a few times while journalists watched the beginning of their meeting.

“What really matters now is what we will do together in the coming weeks, the coming months, the coming years,” Mr Macron said.

The French leader told reporters afterward that the meeting with Biden had been helpful, with a “strong” US commitment about European defence, but what happened next was important.

“Trust is like love: Declarations are good, but proof is better,” he said.

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