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Defying UK, France to proceed with warships sale to Russia

3 min

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius responded with a strong dose of sarcasm to British criticism of France’s planned sale of two warships to Russia, saying the UK should put its own house in order before criticising others.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday that Paris’s plan to press ahead with the €1.2 billion ($1.7 billion) order of two French warships following the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in Ukraine would be “unthinkable” in Britain.
“The English, in particular, were very pleasant so to speak, saying, 'We would never do that'. But I told my dear British friends, let’s talk about the financial sector,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told TF1 television after returning from a European foreign ministers meeting in Brussels.
“I am led to believe that there are quite a few Russian oligarchs in London,” he said.
When asked if that meant Britain should take care of its own business first, Fabius said: “Exactly.”
British broadcaster ITV reported Wednesday that the UK's Commons Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) found 251 export licenses were still in effect for £132 million (€167 million) in controlled goods – including arms, ammunition, and military communications and cryptography equipment – to be sold to Russia.
Only 31 licenses had been suspended since William Hague, the former foreign minister, vowed in March to halt military sales to Russia, the CAEC said.
Washington also weighed in on the debate, telling France pointedly that the delivery of Mistral-class warships to Russia would be "completely inappropriate" given the West's misgivings about Moscow's current role in Ukraine.

'Contracts should be honoured'

France faced renewed criticism from some European allies in Brussels after President François Hollande said that the planned delivery of the warships would go ahead, hampering efforts to forge a united front against Russia.

France has rebuffed calls to halt the sale, saying that cancelling the deal would do more damage to Paris than Moscow, again illustrating the limitations of EU economic sanctions meant to punish Russia.

Paris has repeatedly said that other countries must share the burden in imposing a third round of sanctions on Russia and that any measures should include the energy and financial sectors as well as defence.

Hollande said on Monday that Paris would go ahead with delivery of the first carrier by the end of this year but was ready to review the second delivery, due by 2016. 

“It’s a contract that was signed in 2011. There is an international rule that is worth the same nationally. Contracts that are signed and paid should be honoured,” Fabius said.

“For the second boat, which isn’t totally built, that will depend on the Russians’ attitude,” he said.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)


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