France, Russia to agree warship price within month: envoy
France and Russia will agree the price for the sale of four powerful warships to Moscow within a month, the Russian ambassador to Paris told reporters Wednesday.
France has already agreed to sell Moscow four Mistral-class helicopter carriers, despite the concerns of some of its NATO allies, but the two powers have been wrangling over the price for months.
"The price and other details will be finalised within a month," ambassador Alexander Orlov said at a news conference ahead of the G8 summit of major world powers in the northern French resort of Deauville.
"At the moment, commercial discussions are under way to discuss the price that the Russian Federation will have to pay for the four ships, two of which will be built in France and two in Russia," he said.
It is understood that the negotiations have been held up by disagreements over how much sensitive military technology in the form of onboard electronic systems will be handed to Russia as part of the sale.
Moscow has estimated the total cost of the contract at around 1.5 billion euros ($2.11 billion), and hopes to take delivery of the first vessel in 2013.
Orlov said Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev and summit host President Nicolas Sarkozy of France would probably discuss the sale at a bilateral meeting on Thursday on the sidelines of the summit.
Mistral-class vessels are 30,000-tonne amphibious assault ships capable of carrying up to 16 helicopters, four landing craft, up to 59 armoured vehicles and a unit of 450 marine commandos.
The United States and France's NATO allies Poland and the Baltic states have expressed concern over what would be an unprecedented transfer of military technology from a Western power to the former Cold War foe.
But France has insisted Russia will only be a true security partner if the West can show it trust, and Sarkozy has invested much personal prestige in the negotiations, promising shipyard workers in western France the contract.
© 2011 AFP