France has decided to recall its ambassadors to the United States and Australia for consultations, in protest against the signing of the “Ocos” security agreement.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the “exceptional gravity” of the situation justified the “exceptional decision”.
Under the Okos agreement, Australia will receive technology to build nuclear-powered submarines from the United States and Britain.
The agreement infuriated France, as Australia withdrew from a multi-billion-dollar deal it had signed with Paris.
The agreement has been widely interpreted as an attempt to counter Chinas influence in the disputed South China Sea.
US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison announced the agreement on Wednesday.
France was informed about the agreement between the three countries just hours before it was officially announced.
The French Foreign Minister described the agreement as a “stab in the back.”
Le Drian said in a statement issued late on Friday that the recall of the two ambassadors came at the request of President Emmanuel Macron.
Le Drian added that the agreement “constitutes unacceptable behavior among allies, and its repercussions directly affect our vision of our alliances and partnerships, and the importance of the Indo-Pacific region for Europe.”
A White House official said the Biden administration had expressed regret over the French move, and that it would enter talks with France in the coming days to resolve differences.
Speaking from Washington, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she understood France’s “disappointment” and hoped she would work with the French side to ensure it understood “the value we place on bilateral relations”.
It is not unusual to summon ambassadors among the allies, and it is likely that it is the first time that France has summoned its ambassadors from the United States and Australia.
Thanks to the agreement, Australia will become the seventh country in the world to use nuclear-powered submarines.
The allies will share electronic capabilities, artificial intelligence and other undersea technologies.
The announcement of the agreement ended a $37 billion deal between France and Australia signed in 2016 to build 12 conventional submarines.
Meanwhile, China accused the three powers involved in the agreement of adopting a “cold war mentality”.