France Offers to Halt Russian Ship Sale if UK Hits Oligarchs

Laurent Fabius, May 29, 2007France says it could suspend its controversial deal to sell helicopter assault ships to Russia if more sanctions are adopted against Moscow over Ukraine – but only if Britain also takes action against Russian oligarchs in London.

Laurent Fabius, foreign minister, said halting the €1.2bn contract to supply two Mistral-class helicopter carriers was envisaged as part of a potential “third level” of sanctions if Russia did not respond to sanctions imposed by the EU and the US on Monday on a number of leading Russian and Ukrainian individuals.

But he stressed such a step would only be taken “in the framework of general sanctions imposed by all countries”. He singled out Britain, saying it must do “the equivalent with the assets of Russian oligarchs in London”.

He said he had made this clear to William Hague, his British counterpart, at a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday.

“What is envisaged is the suspension of these contracts,” Mr Fabius said in an interview on Europe 1 radio on Tuesday. “It’s very complicated. On the one hand one can’t envisage supplying [Russia] indefinitely considering its behaviour. On the other hand there is the reality of jobs and the economy.”

He added: “We are doing everything to ensure [the suspension] will not be necessary.”

Image: Laurent Fabius, May 29, 2007 (photo: Socialist Party)