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Egypt to buy French Mistral warships originally built for Russia

Mehdi Chebil, FRANCE 24 | One of the two Mistral warships originally intended for Russia before the deal was scrapped over the crisis in Ukraine.

Egypt has agreed to buy two Mistral-class warships which France built for Russia before scrapping the sale over the Ukrainian crisis, the French presidency said in a statement Wednesday.

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President Francois Hollande and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi “have agreed on the principle and terms and conditions of Egypt’s acquisition of the two Mistral-class vessels”, the statement said.

According to sources close to the French presidency, the price-tag for the ships is expected to land at around €950 million.

Speaking to reporters upon his arrival at an EU summit in Brussels, Hollande said that the deal with Egypt would ensure that France is not “losing anything” after having aborted its original sale plans to Russia.

The two 200-metre (650-foot) amphibious helicopter carriers were due for delivery to Moscow by the end of this year in a deal worth an estimated €1.2 billion ($1.3 billion) – the biggest arms sale ever by a NATO country to Russia.

But Paris delayed, and eventually refused, to deliver the warships to Moscow over Russia’s suspected backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Hollande's office announced last month that a deal had been reached with President Vladimir Putin to pay Russia compensation for cancelling the delivery of the two Mistrals, with Russia set to be "fully reimbursed" for the money it had already paid.

Egypt also purchased 24 Rafale fighter jets from France earlier this year for nearly $6 billion, as it sought international help to bomb Islamic State group targets.

Mistral-class warships can carry 16 helicopter gunships, 700 troops and up to 50 armored vehicles.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

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