AUKUS deal sinks meeting on UN sidelines

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A foreign ministers' meeting with France, the US, Britain and Germany on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York has fallen through due to the dispute over the new security partnership in the Indo-Pacific.

The French side pulled out of the meeting planned for Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas confirmed on Tuesday. It was not cancelled, but just postponed, he said.

The reason was "disgruntlement on the French side, which I can understand, and that some things there first need to be straightened out before we can sit together in this format," he said.

The US State Department cited scheduling difficulties for the change in plans, with a senior official saying schedules are dynamic and it remains to be seen whether such a meeting is still necessary this week.

The official said she expected US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian to have another chance to exchange views later in the week.

The new Indo-Pacific pact between the US, Britain and Australia launched last week has caused a deep diplomatic crisis between Washington and Paris.

Under the AUKUS pact the US and the UK will help Australia develop a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.

The new partnership appears designed to counter a military threat from China in the Indo-Pacific, but it derailed a $A90 billion diesel-powered submarine deal between Australia and France.

French President Emmanuel Macron recalled his ambassadors to Australia and the US in response - a highly unusual move among allies.

Maas also criticised the AUKUS pact in strong terms. "That decision and the way it came about is vexing. And it is sobering not only for France," he said.

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