LONDON — The military relationship between Britain and France remains “rock solid” despite a new defense technology alliance which has seen Paris lose a submarine contract with the Australians, the U.K. prime minister said.

Addressing the House of Commons Thursday, Boris Johnson sought to placate French anger at the new AUKUS alliance, which meant Australia has abandoned a submarine deal with France worth more than €50 billion to instead acquire American-made nuclear-powered submarines.

The alliance will see Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. share advanced technologies with one another, including artificial intelligence, cyber, quantum, underwater systems, and long-range strike capabilities.

“Our relationship with France, our military relationship with France, again, Mr Speaker, is rock solid,” Johnson told MPs. “And we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the French, whether in the Sahel where we are running a joint operation against terrorists in Mali, or whether in Estonia where we currently we have the largest NATO operation.”

Earlier Thursday, French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a Franceinfo interview that the Australian move is a “stab in the back,” adding that he had spoken to his Australian counterpart days ago and received no serious indication of the decision. 

We had established a trusting relationship with Australia, and this trust was betrayed,” Le Drian said.

Johnson was not the only senior member of the U.K. government who tried to calm the French. Britain’s Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace told the BBC that the alliance did not represent a strategic difference between Britain and France.

He said the U.K. did not poach the Australians, but he understood French frustration. “We didn’t go fishing for that, but as a close ally, when the Australians approached us, of course we would consider it.”

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