Australia's defense minister says French President Emmanuel Macron is playing to domestic political sensibilities by expressing sustained outrage in a recent submarine row with Canberra.
Australia scrapped a $40-billion submarine deal with France in favor of a trilateral security partnership with the United States and Britain. France said it was "betrayed," "stabbed in the back" and "deceived" in the case.
Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton said on Friday that Canberra understood Macron's frustration, but that that might be connected to his country's looming national election rather than the cancellation of the deal.
"Look, don't forget, too, that France has got an election in April of next year," he said.
"So politicians and elections always make for an interesting mix," Dutton said. "So I think once we get through that next year, hopefully we can continue with steps to normalize the relationship, but that's the situation at the moment."
Australia's security partnership with the US and Britain, which led to the cancellation of the submarine deal with France, has sent diplomatic relations between Canberra and Paris into freefall since September.
Canberra, which had signed the deal with France to receive conventional diesel-electric submarines, scrapped the agreement after secret negotiations with the US and Britain.
The new partnership allows Australia to acquire American nuclear-powered submarines.
Dutton made the remarks just after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison held his first telephone conversation with Macron since the unveiling of the new pact.
Macron told Morrison on Thursday night that the scrapping of the contract "broke the relationship of trust." He said Canberra needed to propose "tangible actions" to heal the diplomatic rift.
Dutton described the conversation between Morrison and Macron as "productive."
According to officials, no bilateral meeting between Morrison and Macron has yet been scheduled. But the two leaders will meet each other during the G20 summit in Rome, and the COP 26 summit in Glasgow this weekend.