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Fabius tells Washington Russia warships sale will not be scrapped

French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius
French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius Reuters/Benoit Tessier

French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius defended the sale of French warships to Russia in Washington on Tuesday, while saying the contract could be reexamined in October.

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US diplomat Victoria Nuland ruffled French feathers last week by expressing “concern” over France’s sale of two Mistral advanced helicopter carriers to Russia in the light of President Vladimir Putin’s “aggression” in the Ukraine crisis.

"France needs firmness lessons from absolutely no one," Fabius said at a press conference after meeting US Secretary of State John Kerry. "France will do its duty, whether in regard to Ukraine or elsewhere."

But, he insisted, "the rule with contracts is that contracts which have been signed are honoured”, adding that "Legally, we don't have the possibility of not honouring them."

Russia has already paid "more than half" of the agreed price, he said.

The question was discussed in Fabius’s meeting with Kerry but the minister said that his US counterpart did not formally request the contract be scrapped.

But Fabius did say that “the final decision will be made in October” when “we will see what the legal context of this decision will be”.

If new international sanctions are agreed, particularly because of “obstruction” of the 25 May Ukrainian election, there could be tougher sanctions, “which could clearly concern any number of subjects - the subject of energy, the subject of finance, or the subject of defence”.
 

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