July 23 (Reuters) – French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday he was “certain” France would build two Mistral class helicopter carriers for Russia.
Russia hopes to buy four Mistral class warships to modernise hardware that was exposed as outdated during its war against Georgia in 2008. France has said it is willing to sell the ship, but talks have got bogged down over technology sharing.
“We will build with our Russian friends the two (Mistral),” Sarkozy told workers at a shipyard in Western France. “The contract is still in negotiations, but the decision is taken … it’s certain,” he said.
The deal is expected to be sealed by year-end, an executive at the ship yard told reporters.
Russia has said that if it had had the Mistral during its 2008 war with Georgia, it would have achieved its military goal in 40 minutes instead of 26 hours.
However, the potential sale by France of one or more of the 400-500 million euro ($482-602 million) carriers has alarmed Washington and Eastern European NATO nations.
The vessel can carry up to 900 men, helicopters and tanks. (Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry; writing by John Irish; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)