PENNY WONG FRANCE AUSTRALIA BILATERAL
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Key Points
  • Jean-Pierre Thébault’s tenure as France’s ambassador to Australia is ending after three years.
  • He recalled the diplomatic row following a failed submarine deal as “treason”.
  • He’s set to be replaced by Pierre-André Imbert in late December.
Jean-Pierre Thébault’s tenure as Australia’s ambassador to France ends in December, following a three-year deployment.
Commencing his role in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was in the seat in September 2021 when Australia-France relations reached their lowest point in recent history.
The decision by then Prime Minister Scott Morrison to scrap a submarine contract worth $90 billion with France’s Naval Group to pursue the was met with fury in Paris.
and the stoush saw Mr Thébault temporarily recalled along with the US ambassador.
“It was a real crisis,” the outgoing ambassador told SBS French.
“No ambassador in an ally country often experiences what I have experienced. I experienced treason. We must call it the right word.”
Mr Thébault said he received more than 800 letters from Australians who showed “their support and condemnation for the [Australian] government’s decision”.
“There’s no rupture between Australian and French people. It was a bad decision, yes. But not from a country, from a specific government. A bad government.”

Mr Morrison rejected Mr Macron’s accusation, and reiterated in the months following that he “always stands up for Australia’s interests”.

Strengthened ties

Mr Thébault leaves the seat amid renewed ties, seen in a visit to Australia in December by French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.
Under a signed on Monday, France will gain increased access to Australian defence facilities, while the two countries will also increase the sharing of intelligence and carry out joint military training activities.

Australia is set to gain more access to French defence facilities across the Indo-Pacific region.

PENNY WONG FRANCE AUSTRALIA BILATERAL

Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong meets with France’s ambassador to Australia Jean-Pierre Thébault and France’s Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna for a bilateral meeting. Source: AAP / MICK TSIKAS/AAPIMAGE

While labelling the new deal as “ambitious”, Mr Thébault believes it is a step in the right direction.

“We really can achieve new things with our Australian friends.
“Australia is a Francophile country and I leave relieved that we are friends but with certain regrets.
“I leave at the best and the worst moment.”
Mr Thébault will be replaced by Pierre-André Imbert, who is believed by politician pundits to be among France’s most powerful political forces, along with Mr Macron and State Secretary Alexis Kohler.
“My successor has plenty of work, he arrives at a good time to achieve great things,” Mr Thébault said.

“I want to go back to my family. France is my country.”

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