MOSCOW, March 18 (RIA Novosti) – Paris will consider canceling a 1.2-billion-euro deal to deliver two Mistral-class warships to the Russian navy if Moscow provokes further escalation in Ukraine, the French foreign minister has said.
In the interview with France’s TF1 channel on Monday, Laurent Fabius denied the legitimacy of Sunday’s referendum in Crimea to join Russia and urged Moscow to take urgent measures to avoid “useless and dangerous” escalation of the situation in Ukraine.
“If Putin carries on like this, we could consider canceling the sales,” Fabius said adding that the possible loss of the contracts could have a negative impact on the French economy.
The remarks came after the US and EU imposed sanctions Monday on senior Russian officials following a referendum in Ukraine’s Crimea in which voters overwhelmingly supported secession and reunification with Russia.
The French minister, however, appeared to soften the tone of his warning to Russia on Tuesday, saying that he had actually meant a possible suspension of the sale and only if it were accompanied by equivalent action by other EU countries.
“What is being envisaged is the suspension of these contracts but … that would only be in the event of us moving to a third level of sanctions and we are not there yet,” Fabius said.
He reiterated that the sanctions “must involve everyone” and urged the United Kingdom to “do something equivalent with the assets of the Russian oligarchs in London.”
In response to Fabius’ remarks, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Tuesday that “France is starting to undermine confidence it is a reliable provider in the very sensitive sector of military and technical cooperation.”
“All those political waves around the referendum in Crimea will soon subside, but our countries will have to continue working together,” Rogozin, who has been targeted by recent EU sanctions, said in his Twitter blog.
Under a June 2011 contract signed between Russia and France, the first French Mistral-class amphibious assault ship, named Vladivostok, will be delivered to Russia by the year-end, while the second warship, the Sevastopol, is due to arrive in 2015.
The ships are capable of carrying 16 helicopters, four landing craft, 70 armored vehicles, and 450 soldiers and are expected to be deployed with Russia’s Pacific Fleet.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned earlier this month that sanctions against Russia would cause mutual damage in the interconnected, globalized modern world.
Updates with new Fabius comments, Rogozin response, minor rewrites
France’s Mistral amphibious assault ship