French President Emmanuel Macron says his offer to cooperate with Australia on submarines is still "on the table," almost a year after a bitter row between the two sides over a cancelled contract threatened bilateral ties.
France signed a $58-billion deal with Australia to provide it with diesel-powered submarines in 2016. However, Australia unilaterally dropped that deal in favor of an agreement secretly negotiated with the United States and Britain, which promised to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines instead.
An infuriated France said at the time that it had been betrayed by the trio. The row derailed French relations with Australia and even threatened to sink an EU-Australia trade agreement, but the two sides mended relations after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese took power in Canberra.
Speaking in the Thai capital of Bangkok on Thursday, a day after meeting Albanese on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Indonesia, Macron said that his government's offer regarding submarine cooperation with Australia "remains on the table."
"We will now see how they adapt to the difficulties (they face). There is a fundamental choice, which is to know whether they produce submarines in their own country or rely on another — whether they go for nuclear or not," the French president said.
He said Australians "haven't decided to change strategy on that subject at this point."
The French leader stressed that his country would not supply nuclear-powered submarines to foreign countries, so the offer was related only to conventional vessels, adding that Paris would guarantee Canberra's "freedom and sovereignty," noting that construction would take place in Australia.
Back in July and during a visit to Paris, Albanese hailed a new start in ties with France, stressing that he would act with "trust, respect and honesty" in his dealings with Macron.
Only six countries, namely the US, Britain, France, China, India, and Russia, have nuclear-powered submarines.
The submarines used by the US and British navies use highly-enriched uranium, with a purity of 93 percent, the same level necessary for a powerful nuclear weapon.
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