Ministers respond to criticism about Mistral contract with Russia

Russia/Mistral ships – Interview given by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, to France Inter (excerpts)

Paris, 24 July 2014

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Q. – In the past few days the United States, and also our British neighbours, have been pointing the finger at France for the sale of the two Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia. The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, even admonished you by saying that it would be unthinkable in the UK. What’s your reply to him?

THE MINISTER – I politely told him that it would, for example, be unthinkable in France for France to attack another country, by saying there are weapons of mass destruction when there aren’t. That would be unthinkable in France.

Q. – A reference to Iraq?

THE MINISTER – You’ve understood me. What I want to say is that the British are our friends and we’ve had very good relations with them for a long time, but even so, things must be put on the table. As far as the Mistral contracts are concerned, they were signed in 2011.

Q. – Under Nicolas Sarkozy.

THE MINISTER – Yes. Not this government, but it doesn’t much matter. The rule is that signed and paid contracts are honoured. There must of course be additional pressure on Russia, this was talked about, but everyone has to do their bit. This is why we may, for example, ask questions about the fact that there are so many Russian oligarchs in London, just as your journalist colleagues published yesterday, I believe, a list saying that the British today still had 250 arms export licences vis-à-vis Russia. I haven’t checked.

Q. – The list was from a British parliamentary report published yesterday…

THE MINISTER – Yes. I didn’t check it but I think it’s absolutely correct. I think this will have to be looked at calmly, all the countries of Europe, without getting into any kind of internal “squabble”, must do the maximum to exert pressure so that, here too, there’s an end to the conflict. (…)./.

Russia/sale of Mistral ships – Interview given by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, to TF1 (excerpts)

Paris, 22 July 2014

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France/Russia/Mistral sales

Q. – France is due to deliver two French military Mistral ships to Russia. Is this delivery being called into question?

THE MINISTER – No. It’s a contract which was signed in 2011; it was another government, but it doesn’t much matter. There’s a rule which applies internationally as well as nationally: contracts which have been signed and, moreover, paid, must be honoured.

The President has said that the contract for the first ship, which is due to be delivered in October, will be honoured and that, for the second ship, which hasn’t yet been finished being built, [due] next year, it will depend on the Russians’ attitude.

Q. – But the contract for the second ship has also been signed!

THE MINISTER – Yes, of course! But it isn’t…

Q. – We aren’t obliged to honour that one!

THE MINISTER – It isn’t at the same stage. So, as regards your report, the British in particular have been “extremely gracious” by saying “we would never have done that”. I reminded them that the principle I mentioned existed for everyone, and I also said to them: “Dear British friends, let’s also talk about finance. I understand there are quite a few Russian oligarchs in London”.

Q. – You’re asking them to put their own house in order before making that kind of comment.

THE MINISTER – Precisely. It’s called national sovereignty.

EU sanctions/Russia

Q. – You’re saying we’ll see what happens for the second ship. But what does Vladimir Putin have to do exactly for the second ship not to be delivered the Russians? We get the impression nonetheless that this is to buy some time!

THE MINISTER – No. Moreover, we decided, and this will be published on Thursday, on sanctions – now, this is important – in four new areas. Finance – I’ve just referred to this –, defence in the broad sense for new contracts, so-called dual-use goods and also new technology. So, on Thursday, we’ll have a list on which the heads of state and government will have to come to a decision.

Russia/arming of rebels/MH17 plane crash

Q. – The Americans are very firmly pointing the finger at Russia; they’re saying they are the ones arming the rebels. The Russians are saying “no, we’ve never armed the rebels”. What’s France saying? What are you saying?

THE MINISTER – We’re stating orally and in writing (…) that the Russians must stop arming the rebels. Because it’s absolutely true that they’re doing this.

Q. – So, they’re doing this and you think they’re partly responsible for what happened with MH17?

THE MINISTER – I think the investigation will establish this. Personally, I’m inclined towards that. But one of the key points in our discussion this afternoon was to say to the Russians: “you really have to cooperate now”, which hasn’t been the case lately. (…)./.


Russia/sale of Mistral ships – Interview given by M. Harlem Désir, Minister of State for European Affairs, to RFI

Paris, 22 July 2014

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Q. – France’s sale of the Mistrals, the two military ships, will probably be discussed in Brussels this afternoon. The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, thinks it would be unthinkable, in the circumstances, for this sale to go through; hasn’t France got any second thoughts?

THE MINISTER – As France has said, if there were to be a certain degree of responsibility on the part of Russia, obviously all this would be called into question. It depends on Russia’s attitude, both as regards the investigation due to be carried out into the Malaysia Airlines plane crash, and also concerning the resolution of the Ukraine crisis…

Q. – And Crimea’s annexation, for example, isn’t reason enough for cancelling this sale?

THE MINISTER – Once again, this is about a further level of sanctions which could concern future deliveries of equipment, for the second Mistral in particular. The first has actually been paid for, but obviously, depending on Russia’s attitude, a further level of sanctions in the future…

Q. – So it isn’t being ruled out that this second Mistral won’t be sold?

THE MINISTER – Today it isn’t being ruled out, but nothing is being ruled out. The aim of the sanctions is to get Russia to agree to cooperate not only now on the investigation, but also on resolving the conflict with Ukraine. It’s been France’s approach from the outset: firmness and dialogue to find a political solution./.

Published on 20/08/2014

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