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Australia and France reset relationship after 'back-stabbing' defence deal

France and Australia are to reset their bilateral relationship after a two-year 'cold war' following a 'back-stabbing' defence deal that saw Canberra renege on a huge military contract to buy submarines from Paris.  

This week, foreign ministers Catherine Colonna and Penny Wong signed a new deal to share military bases and training facilities in the Pacific, clearly hoping to put the past few years behind them and move on.

"We are determined to step up, beef up our cooperation with the partners in the region including of course, with the number one partner for us in the region, Australia," Colonna said.

Wong added that Australia was keen to work more closely with the French military, particularly in the Pacific.

Speaking at the National Press Club before their meeting, Colonna said the French government had “decided to move on” following the fallout from the debacle of the submarine deal.

Relations between the two countries hit rock bottom after former Australian prime minister Scott Morrison angered Paris in 2021 by pulling the plug on a $90 billion Australian (€55 billion) contract for a fleet of French-built submarines.

Morrison opted for a nuclear-powered US model under the AUKUS partnership with the UK and the US instead.

France's then foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the move as a "stab in the back."

"Colonna’s visit to Australia is a clear signal that France has decided to close the book on what was a very bad bit of diplomatic manoeuvring from the Australian side," John Fowler, a former Australian diplomat and co-founder of the daily global affairs newsletter 'International Intrigue' told Euronews. 

"Of course, Australia is only too happy to move on as well". 

Colonna described the aftermath of the AUKUS pact as not “pleasant”.

The move prompted France to temporarily recall its ambassador in Canberra and the infamous response from the French president, Emmanuel Macron when asked if he thought Morrison had lied to him about the deal.

“I don’t think, I know,” Macron replied.

Fowler explains that France’s initial anger toward the Australian decision was also about "the shock and subsequent distrust France felt at being kept out of the loop on