France’s ambassador to Australia is returning to Canberra, in a sign the diplomatic mood between the two countries is thawing.
Jean-Pierre Thebault was recalled in September after Australia exited a $90 billion dollar submarine deal with France for a new defence pact with the US and UK.
The French envoy will now return with two missions; to redefine the relationship between the two countries, and defend France’s interests.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is optimistic tensions will now ease, saying “hopefully we can move beyond our recent disappointments”.
So far, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been unable to reach French President Emmanuel Macron, via phone.
Mr Morrison has highlighted the importance of Australia’s relationship with France while addressing the media on Thursday afternoon.
“The Australia-France relationship is bigger than a contract – and France’s presence, and significance, and influence in the Indo-Pacific isn’t about a contract,” said Mr Morrison, “it’s about the fact that they have an actual presence here in the Indo-Pacific, that they have a longstanding commitment, and work with Australia across a whole range of different issues”.
“France already has a significant and longstanding role and future here, and we welcome that”.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton has echoed his fellow Ministers’ sentiments, saying it’s important for Mr Thebault to “return and to re-engage with the government”.
“We’ve got an important relationship with France and we want to normalise that relationship,”