Former prime minister Scott Morrison has been accused of stoking “nuclear confrontation” with China after ditching a submarine contract with France.
But French President Emmanuel Macron maintained a potential deal to produce conventional submarines for Australia was still “on the table”.
Mr Macron warmly met Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at the G20 summit and strongly criticised his predecessor 24-hours later.
The Franco-Australian relationship was damaged last year following Mr Morrison’s decision to dump a submarine contract with French shipbuilder Naval Group in favour of acquiring others under a new partnership with the UK and US (AUKUS).
France temporarily recalled its ambassador from Canberra and Mr Macron told Australian reporters Mr Morrison had lied to him.
Despite warm relations with Mr Albanese, Mr Macron is still overcoming the loss of the multi-billion dollar submarine deal.
Ahead of the APEC summit in Bangkok, Mr Macron told reporters France had been helping Australia to build a submarine fleet “in-house”.
He said the agreement to build submarines for Australia had not been about confrontation with China.
“Australia will maintain the submarines themselves, and it is not confrontational to China because they are not nuclear-powered submarines,” he told reporters.
“But the choice made by (former) prime minister Morrison was the opposite, re-entering into nuclear confrontation.”
The French president said Mr Morrison had made Australia “completely dependent” because Australia could not produce or maintain the submarines acquired under the AUKUS deal.
Asked about France’s offer to supply diesel-powered submarines to Australia, Mr Macron said: “It is known, it is still on the table”, adding that talks were ongoing on the modalities of a potential deal.
— AAP with Reuters