Australia made 'huge mistake' - French ambassador

French envoy Jean-Pierre Thebault left Canberra on Saturday (September 18) after Paris recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia.

"I think this has been a huge mistake."

The diplomatic row erupted on Thursday (September 16).

That was when Australia said it would scrap a $40 billion deal signed in 2016 for France's Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines.

Instead Australia said it would build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with U.S. and British technology, after striking a trilateral security partnership.

France called that a stab in the back.

Thebault said there had been "very, very bad handling" of the partnership.

"Real Aussies, people who understand what it means to be mates, what it means to look at each others back is for me the most important. So I'm looking forward first of to be back because it will be a good sign that something can be done."

In a statement, France's foreign minister said the ambassadors had been recalled due to the "exceptional gravity" of the situation.

Australia said it regretted the recall of the French ambassador, that it valued the relationship with France and would keep engaging with Paris on other issues.

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