Still no date for warship delivery to Russia: France

12th November 2014, Comments 0 comments

France's Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Wednesday there was still no fixed date for the delivery of two Mistral-class warships to Russia.

"No delivery date can be fixed at this stage," Le Drian told the National Assembly lower house of parliament.

"The president of the Republic has said that a definitive decision will come at the right moment, taking into account all the responsibilities that come with this decision, which is not a simple decision.

"The first of two mammoth Mistral-class assault ships was supposed to be delivered on Friday according to the original deal signed in 2011.

But amid this year's Ukraine crisis and the rapid decline in the West's relations with Russia, France has come under intense pressure from its allies, particularly the United States, and in September postponed the delivery.

France faces a difficult choice.

Ditching the contract will cost it billions of dollars and threatens jobs.

But going ahead would incur NATO's wrath and heighten fears in Poland and the Baltic states, which are concerned that Russia's recent aggression may soon turn in their direction.

Hopes that a September ceasefire between Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces might have provided a pretext for the deal to go ahead have been dashed by continued fighting and claims this week that Russia is sending more military hardware into Ukraine.

The amphibious assault ships can carry 16 helicopters, four landing crafts, 13 tanks, 450 soldiers and a hospital.

© 2014 AFP

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