Poland says France should pull back from Russian navy deal

Photo: Poland says France should pull back from Russian navy deal / Other News

Poland's foreign minister urged France on Tuesday to cancel a 1.2 billion euro ($1.66 billion) contract to sell Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia, saying these would be used to threaten east European nations, Reuters reported.

Asked if France should deliver the two vessels, Radoslaw Sikorski told Le Monde newspaper: "No, because Russian generals have already said what these ships will be used for: to threaten Russia's neighbours in the Black Sea and that means Europe's partners. I don't think France would want to be in the position of supplying efficient weapons to an aggressor."

The United States and some European partners have been urging Paris to reconsider its supply of high-tech military hardware to Moscow following Russian action in Ukraine, including its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in March.

France has so far rebuffed those calls, saying that cancelling the deal would do more damage to Paris than Moscow and illustrating the limitations of European Union sanctions meant to punish Russia.

Sikorski was speaking ahead of French President Francois Hollande's visit to Poland on Wednesday.

U.S. President Barack Obama is due in Paris for bilateral talks with Hollande on Thursday, and U.S. officials have said he will bring up the Mistral sale, piling pressure on Paris.

U.S. lawmakers urged France on May 29 to cancel the sale of the two carriers and suggested that NATO buy or lease them instead.

The Russian defence ministry warned Paris in March that it would have to repay the cost of the contract and additional penalties if it cancelled the deal.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is also due to meet Hollande in Paris after the French leader holds talks with Obama.

The long-discussed French sale was Moscow's first major foreign arms purchase in the two decades since the demise of the Soviet Union. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy hailed the signing of the Mistral contract as evidence the Cold War was over. It has created about 1,000 jobs in France.

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