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PARIS: Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese welcomed a “new start” in relations with France as he met President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Friday, after an acrimonious row between the countries over a submarine contract last year.

“My presence here represents a new start for our countries’ relationship,” Albanese said after arriving at the Elysee Palace.

“Australia’s relationship with France matters. Trust, respect and honesty matter. This is how I will approach my relations,” he added.

Macron said that the first conversations between the pair since Albanese’s election in May “mark a willingness to rebuild a relationship of trust between our two countries, a relationship based on mutual respect”.

After acknowledging “difficult times”, Macron emphasised the two countries’ strategic partnership, their shared war history in Europe and their joint interests in stability in the Pacific region.

The statements, which followed a warm greeting between the two men and their wives in the courtyard of the presidential palace, represent a sea change in ties since the departure of former Australian premier Scott Morrison. Macron was left furious last year after Morrison secretly negotiated to buy US-designed submarines and then ditched a landmark contract with France signed in 2016 and worth Aus$50 billion (33 billion euros) at the time. France broke off diplomatic contacts with Australia and Macron repeatedly accused Morrison of having lied to him during a dinner they had in Paris in June 2021. Morrison’s actions were marked by “brutality and cynicism, and I would even be tempted to say of unequivocal incompetence”, Outgoing French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said as he handed over to his successor Catherine Colonna on May 21.

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