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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - PARIS — France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned that Australia's move to replace Paris for Washington, in a multi-billion dollar submarine deal, will "affect the definition" of NATO.
France's decision to recall its ambassadors to the US and Australia Friday is due to a "crisis" in relations, he underlined in an interview with local TV channel France 2.
Asked why the ambassador of Britain, a third side in a security pact with Australia and the US which led to the contract annulment, was not recalled, the French ambassador remarked London was known for its "permanent opportunism".
France on Saturday accused Australia and the United States of lying over a ruptured Australian contract to buy French submarines, saying a grave crisis was under way between the allies.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday recalled the ambassadors to Canberra and Washington in an unprecedented move to signal his fury.
The row has, for now, ended hopes of a post-Donald Trump renaissance in relations between Paris and Washington under President Joe Biden and also focused French attention on boosting the European Union's security strategy as it ponders NATO's future.
Le Drian gave no indication Paris was prepared to let the crisis die down, using distinctly undiplomatic language towards Australia, the United States and Britain. "There has been lying, duplicity, a major breach of trust and contempt," Le Drian said. "This will not do."
He described the withdrawal of the ambassadors for the first time in the history of relations with the countries as a "very symbolic" act that aimed "to show how unhappy we are and that there is a serious crisis between us".
Of London's role in the pact under Prime Minister Boris Johnson, he added with derision: "Britain in this whole thing is a bit like the third wheel."
NATO would have to take account of what has happened as it reconsiders strategy at a summit in Madrid next year, he added.
Adm. Rob Bauer, chair of NATO's Military Committee, earlier played down the dangers, saying it was not likely to have an impact on "military cooperation" within the alliance. — Agencies
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