Emmanuel Macron, the French president, has accused Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison of lying to him over a canceled submarine sale.
When asked if he believes Mr Morrison lied, the president said, “I don’t think, I know.”
Mr Macron was enraged when Australia scrapped a $37 billion (£27 billion) plan to construct 12 submarines and instead negotiated the so-called Aukus, a new defense treaty with the US and the UK.
Mr Morrison maintains that he was not deceitful.
For the first time since the conflict erupted in September, the two met at the G20 conference in Rome.
On the margins of the event, an Australian journalist questioned President Macron if he could trust Mr Morrison again.
Mr Macron said, “We’ll see what he delivers.”
“I have a great deal of admiration for your country. I have a great deal of admiration and friendship for your people. I just state that when we have respect, we must be honest and conduct in accordance with this principle.”
The deal’s cancellation sparked a furious feud between France, Australia, and the United States.
The decision was criticized by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian as a “stab in the back,” and Paris temporarily withdrew its diplomats to Australia and the United States.
Scott Morrison told reporters following Mr Macron’s remarks that he had not lied to him and that he had previously conveyed to him that conventional submarines would no longer suit Australia’s defense needs.
He went on to say that the process of establishing trust and repairing the relationship between the two countries had already begun.
On Friday, US Vice President Joe Biden met with French President Emmanuel Macron for the first time since the Aukus accord was signed.
Mr Biden conceded that the US was “clumsy” in the discussions during the tense encounter. Mr. Macron stated that it was critical to “look to the future.”
The leaders will have extra time to heal fences because they are all traveling to Glasgow, Scotland, for the COP26 climate change meeting.
For the first time, the Aukus treaty will allow Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines using US technology. It is one of Australia’s most significant defense alliances in decades.
The treaty put an end to an agreement reached by Australia and France in 2016 to build 12 conventional submarines.
It’s commonly assumed to be a response to China’s expanding military capability. The arrangement has been branded “very reckless” by China.