France is set to send Australia a bill "in a few weeks" to compensate for the submarine deal that was cancelled because of the AUKUS security pact, according to French newspaper Le Figaro.
Pierre-Eric Pommellet, the chief executive of Naval Group, which had been due to build submarines for Australia, told the newspaper that, since the contract was terminated on Canberra's own accord, his company is not "at fault". He also said that the cancellation of the submarine deal had been a complete surprise for the firm.
“We were in shock. This decision was announced to us without any notice,” he told the newspaper. “Very few companies have experienced such a [brutal] scenario.”
According to Pommellet, the company was informed of the contract termination on 15 September, the exact day the AUKUS pact was announced.
Moreover, according to Hervé Grandjean, a spokesman for France's Ministry of Defence, on the very same day the ministry and Naval Group received an official letter from the Australian Navy in which it praised the "excellent" performance of the French-made submarines.
Grandjean is cited by The Guardian as saying that a senior official who was overseeing the project informed him that he had “taken a close look at the state of progress in the contract, in line with the contract, and was extremely satisfied that performance of the French submarine was excellent, which clearly means that we were to move to the next phase of the contract”.
After the AUKUS-prompted cancellation of the French submarine deal with Australia, Paris dramatically withdrew its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra. Although France has already agreed to return it US ambassador Philippe Etienne to Washington next week, Australian PM Scott Morrison reportedly faced nothing but silence from the French president when he tried to contact him, and there is no indication as to when Canberra may expect the French ambassador back.
Paris described the AUKUS pact as a "stab in the back", with French Defence Minister Florence Parly accusing the United States of attempting to instigate a confrontation with China. Beijing, in its turn, also voiced concerns that the pact could undermine non-proliferation efforts in the Asia-Pacific region and prompt an arms race.