France snubs Obama plea to halt Russia warship deal

France snubs Obama plea to halt Russia warship deal
Sun Jun 8, 2014 09:10:31

France has decided to move ahead with its delivery of two amphibious warships to Russia as planned, ignoring a plea by US President Barack Obama to forgo the $1.6 billion deal and sell the ships to NATO instead.

“I have expressed some concerns—and I don't think I'm alone in this—about continuing significant defense deals with Russia at a time when they have violated basic international law, and the territorial integrity and sovereignty of their neighbors," Obama said Thursday at a news conference in Brussels.

However, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius confirmed Friday that the sale of the Mistral-class helicopter carriers would go ahead as planned. “The contracts were agreed in 2011, they represent many jobs and they will be carried out,” he said in a tweet before attending D-Day commemoration events in Normandy, France.

Obama, French President Francois Hollande, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin attended the gathering.

“President Hollande so far has made a different decision,” Obama said. But he stressed that the contract “does not negate the broader cooperation” between the United States and France to work on additional sanctions to “discourage President Putin from engaging in further destabilizing actions” in Ukraine.

The contract is Moscow’s first foreign arms purchase since the end of the Cold War and has created some 1,000 jobs in French shipyards.

Last month, members of Congress also urged France to reconsider the deal with Russia and instead allow NATO to buy or lease the warships.

The US lawmakers sent a letter to NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, saying that the purchase would send a strong signal to President Putin that the alliance “will not tolerate or in any way enable his reckless moves.”

Washington accuses Moscow of orchestrating an “illegitimate referendum to annex Crimea" and fuelling unrest in eastern Ukraine.

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