The French government said it “never cancelled” a scheduled meeting between President Emmanuel Macron and his Swiss counterpart Guy Parmelin because it was frustrated with Bern’s decision this summer to buy American fighter jets instead of French ones, according to a statement from Elysee Palace.
Swiss media earlier reported that the long-anticipated meeting between Macron and Parmelin (who doubles as the country’s Economic Affairs Minister), was cancelled because of the fury Paris felt about the Swiss government’s botched negotiations on the acquisition of jets.
Switzerland announced in late June that it had chosen to buy Lockheed Martin's F-35A Lightning II, discarding the option of France's Dassault Rafale jets.
But two Swiss newspapers, Le Matin Dimanche and SonntagsZeitung, said anonymous diplomatic sources claimed that Paris had been left fuming with the Swiss defence ministry for continuing negotiations with Dassault even when it had already decided to pursue the US option.
The French government dismissed the reports, telling news agency AFP that arrangements concerning the meeting are still being discussed:
"It was never cancelled - and especially not for the reasons mentioned," the Elysee Palace said in a statement, explaining that the date for the presidential summit “has not yet been set”.
The Elysee argued that Switzerland wanted to hold the gathering in November but Paris found the timing “complicated”.
Parmelin’s office also confirmed to AFP that the scheduling for the meeting has yet to be completed and this delay should not be seen as “a cancellation of a confirmed appointment”.
Switzerland has angered many this summer by opting for a so-called “Ferrari” option, choosing to buy 36 of America’s Lockheed Martin F-35A fighters instead of France’s Dassault Rafale or Europe’s Airbus jets.
The news comes at a peculiar time, coinciding with France unleashing a diplomatic row with Australia and the US, after Canberra decided to cancel its submarine deal with Paris in favour of American technology-induced nuclear subs and a new security alliance with London and Washington.
France called the deal "unacceptable” and on Friday recalled the country's ambassadors to Australia and the US.