'No difficulty' for France to find Mistral buyers: Hollande07 august 2015, 11:17
French President Francois Hollande said Thursday there would be "no difficulty" in finding new buyers for two Mistral warships that had been sold to Russia before Paris scrapped the deal, AFP reports.
Paris refused to deliver the warships to Moscow in response to Russia's alleged aggression in Ukraine last year.
"There will be no difficulty in finding buyers," Hollande told reporters in the Egyptian canal city of Ismailiya, where he attended a ceremony to inaugurate an expanded Suez Canal.
Two of the 200-metre (650-foot) amphibious helicopter-carriers were due for delivery to Russia by the end of this year in a deal worth an estimated 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion).
The deal was formally cancelled Wednesday and, within hours, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said several countries had expressed an interest in buying the ships, without giving details.
France's Western partners had said any delivery of ships to Russia would undermine their efforts to isolate Moscow over its 2014 annexation of Crimea and support of separatists in eastern Ukraine.
In June 2014, US President Barack Obama had urged Paris to "press the pause button" on the deal, signed in 2011.
"I spoke several times with President (Vladimir) Putin and a good agreement has been reached," Hollande said Thursday.
Moscow will be reimbursed "less than 1.2 billion euros," he said.
The "Russians will be refunded with the amount that had been paid and the expenses incurred," he said.
"Besides that, these ships are triggering a kind of demand from many countries; there will be no difficulties to find a buyer."
Hollande said parliament will have to "ratify this (cancellation) agreement" and that "the precise figures will be in the parliamentary document".
He also said there would be no penalties for France "related to the breaking of the contract".
Russia has said France had already returned the money and considered the matter closed.
In April, in a sign that the deal was on rocky ground, Putin downplayed the importance of the ships but insisted that the French side reimburse Moscow "all expenses" if the contract were to be terminated.
Experts say France will have to cut the price to make the warships attractive to resell them as most countries with the money and desire to buy boats of that size have their own ship-building industries.
France itself has three Mistrals in its fleet and does not have the funds to add two more, experts say.