Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a news conference. File photo
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday he will not speak with the French president at the United Nations this week even though French anger over cancellation of a $40 billion defence contract could threaten an Australian-EU trade deal.
Morrison continued to deny French claims that they only became aware of the nuclear submarine deal the day it was announced.
“It would be naive to think that a decision of this nature was not going to cause disappointment, obviously, to the French. We understand that. We totally acknowledge that,” Morrison told reporters in New York City ahead of a meeting with Biden and the leaders of India and Japan who make up the Quad security forum.
French President Emmanuel Macron gestures during an event.
"It was not possible for us to be able to discuss such secure issues in relation to our dealings with other countries at that time. We have made it very clear, I had made it very clear, that a conventional submarine would no longer be meeting our strategic interests and what we needed those boats to do. That had been communicated very clearly many months ago,” Morrison added.
Australia last week scrapped a deal with France's Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines and will instead build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with US and British technology after striking a trilateral security partnership with those two countries.
US President Joe Biden speaks during a conference.
The cancellation of the deal has angered France, which accused both Australia and the United States of stabbing it in the back, and it recalled its ambassadors from both Canberra and Washington.
While US President Joe Biden has sought to speak to French President Emmanuel Macron to ease tension, Morrison said he would not hold a separate bilateral meeting with the French leader."There is not an opportunity for that at this time. I'm sure that opportunity will come in time," Morrison told reporters in New York when asked if he would speak to Macron on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
At a televised White House announcement, Biden was flanked by large video displays of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australia's Morrison, who each took part remotely.
They also talked about beating the COVID-19 pandemic, combating climate change and working together to hold those responsible for the coup in Myanmar, the White House said in a statement on Wednesday.
Leaders meeting over dinner in Slovenia on Tuesday split into classic divisions of eastern states fearful of Russia and wanting to strengthen Europe within NATO and those led by Germany, Italy, Spain and France that want a more robust EU capability.
Millions of people were forced to make alternative travel plans or work from home as the majority of train companies on the country’s fragmented network said they were running no services.
At the beginning of the meeting, which took place at Qasr Al Shati, Sheikh Mohamed welcomed President Lukashenko, who is on a work visit to the UAE, and wished further growth and prosperity for Belarus and its people.
The video showed a Mercedes driver throwing banknotes at the female gas station attendant who just finished filling fuel into the vehicle at the station in Leshan, Sichuan Province.