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France’s Macron accuses Australia’s prime minister of lying about submarine deal: ‘I don’t think, I know’

Australia’s retort: “We didn’t deface the Eiffel Tower. It was a contract.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Oct. 31 Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison lied to him over the cancellation of a submarine building contract. (Video: Reuters)

French President Emmanuel Macron accused Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, of lying to him about a sunken $66 billion submarine deal that triggered an angry charge of betrayal from Paris.

“I don’t think, I know,” Macron responded to a question about whether he thought Morrison had lied by not disclosing negotiations with the United States and Britain that nixed Australia’s deal with France.

“We will see what he will deliver,” Macron said about the prospect of rebuilding trust. “I have a lot of respect for your country," the French president told Australian reporters Sunday on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Italy. “I just say when we have respect, you have to be true.”

Why the French are so furious at the Biden administration over a derailed submarine deal

The surprise announcement in September of the new three-way security pact AUKUS, which will share nuclear submarine technology, overrode an earlier deal for Australia to buy 12 French diesel-powered submarines. Paris saw it as “a stab in the back.”

In a bid to smooth over friction with America’s oldest ally, President Biden said Friday in his first face-to-face meeting with Macron since the rift that Washington had been “clumsy” in its handling of the weapons deals, which pushed France to briefly recall its ambassador.

Biden calls handling of defense deal that upset France ‘clumsy’

Australia weighed in, rebutting the French president’s remarks. “We didn’t deface the Eiffel Tower. It was a contract,” its deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, said on Sunday.

Morrison, who had declared in Rome that the two countries were repairing ties, added that he warned Macron the conventional submarines would no longer meet his country’s needs.

“I didn’t want Australia to settle for less,” the prime minister told reporters on Monday. “I think the statements that were made questioning Australia’s integrity...I’m not gonna cop sledging of Australia.”

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