Emmanuel Macron and the new Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese affirmed on Friday their desire to “rebuild trust” between their two countries, seriously damaged by the cancellation by Canberra of a gigantic contract to purchase 12 French submarines.

“We are going to talk about the future, not the past,” said the French head of state after welcoming Mr. Albanese in the courtyard of the Elysée Palace in Paris.

The new Prime Minister, who came to power in May after the victory of Labor (left) in the legislative elections, “is not responsible for what happened”, he added.

Emmanuel Macron was referring to the high tensions between Paris and Canberra following the cancellation in September 2021 by Australia of a mega contract for 12 submarines, in favor of nuclear-powered vessels as part of the announcement of the Aukus partnership between Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom.

The president then accused Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison of deception and the French ambassadors to Canberra and Washington were recalled to Paris, an unprecedented gesture.

In May, the electoral defeat of Mr. Morrison made it possible to begin to turn the page, especially as Mr. Albanese multiplied the positive signals towards Paris.

After a first meeting this week at the NATO summit in Madrid, the visit to Paris represents “a new start in relations” bilateral, said the Prime Minister. By insisting that “trust, respect and honesty matter”.

For his part, Mr. Macron expressed a common desire “to rebuild a relationship of trust between our two countries, a relationship based on mutual respect after a difficult phase”.

The atmosphere was also very relaxed at the Elysée, where Emmanuel Macron was surrounded by his wife Brigitte to welcome Anthony Albanese and his partner Jodie Haydon.

After the interview and lunch, the Australian couple opened the exhibition of Aboriginal artist Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori at the Fondation Cartier in Paris.

At the Elysee Palace, Mr Albanese insisted that France was “not only a great European power, but also an Indo-Pacific and world power”. “His engagement in the Indo-Pacific will be essential to address the challenges facing our region,” he added.

Such a speech is in accordance with the will of Emmanuel Macron, who has insisted since 2017 on the importance for France of developing “an Indo-Pacific strategy”. Because “we are actors” in this vast region “we have a million compatriots” who live there and “more than 8,000 soldiers who are deployed there”, detailed the head of state Thursday, citing New Caledonia , Polynesia, Reunion, Mayotte…

He also said he wanted the freedom of our sovereignty to be “respected everywhere”, alluding to the ambitions of China, which announced in April the signing of a “framework security agreement” with the Solomon Islands.

“France and Australia will forge a new defense relationship”, based in particular on “an operational commitment and exchanges of intelligence”, “in particular on maritime surveillance”, specified MM. Macron and Albanese in a joint press release issued after their meeting. They also want to increase the cooperation” of their defense industries, as Canberra recently agreed to pay 555 million euros to French submarine manufacturer Naval Group for canceled submarines.

Other areas of cooperation to be developed include the fight against climate change, biodiversity and education, with France undertaking to set up the Australian international section of the baccalaureate, already present in New Caledonia, in a more large number of French schools, while the teaching of French would be reinforced in Australian schools.

01/07/2022 17:38:13 –         Paris (AFP) –         © 2022 AFP