Hollande: France Will Have ‘No Difficulty’ Finding Mistral Buyers

August 6, 2015 6:20 PM - Updated: August 7, 2015 7:23 AM
An undated photo of Russian-ordered Mistra
An undated photo of Russian-ordered Mistra

French president François Hollande told reports on Thursday France will have little trouble finding new buyers for two Mistral-class amphibious warships originally built for the Russian Navy.

“There will be no difficulty in finding buyers,” he told reporters following a ceremony in Egypt marking the expansion of the Suez Canal.

The comments follow Wednesday’s announcement from Élysée Palace that Russia and France had formalized canceling the delivery of the two 21,000-ton amphibious warships as part of a 2011 deal.

“Talks between President Putin and President Francois Hollande concluded yesterday. There is no further dispute on the matter,” French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France’s RTL radio on Wednesday.

Paris paid Moscow about $1.31 billion to call off the deal.

“France has already transferred these funds and, after the return of equipment, will acquire ownership and be able to take charge of both ships,” read a release from the Kremlin via state-run RT news service.

“Moscow considers the Mistral issue completely resolved.”

The deal settles more than a year of back and forth between Paris and Moscow following Hollande’s announcement in September France would suspend the delivery of the ships citing Russian intervention in the ongoing civil conflict in Ukraine.

Now France will seek a buyer for the two ships designed to operate in cold weather climates with reinforced decks for heavier Russian helicopters.

“It’s desirable that we sell them as quickly as possible,” Le Drian told RTL.

France already has three Mistrals and would have difficulty absorbing the ships into its Navy.

Despite Hollande’s assurance, the options for France are limited.

Suggestions for buyers have included Canada, India and as platforms for the emerging NATO multi-national rapid reaction force.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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