French envoy accuses Australia of 'stab in the back'

"The deceit was intentional. And because there was far more at stake than providing submarines, because it was a common agreement on sovereignty, sealed with the transmission of highly classified datas, the way it was handled was plainly a stab in the back," Thebault told media in Canberra.

Australia in September cancelled a deal with France's Naval Group, opting instead opting to build at least 12 nuclear-powered submarines in a deal with the United States and Britain.

The decision has caused a major bilateral rift, with France recalling its ambassadors from Australia and the United States in protest. Thebault returned to Canberra last month, and the speech on Wednesday is the first time he has spoken publicly on the bilateral relationship.

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