Russia and France have started "exclusive talks" on the purchase of four French Mistral-class amphibious-assault ships, President Nicolas Sarkozy said after talks with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev.
A source in the Russian Defense Ministry said Friday that Moscow and Paris have yet to clinch a deal on the purchase of the French warship, adding that nothing would be signed during the Russian president's three-day visit to France, which began on Monday.
"Starting from today, exclusive talks on the issue of four Mistral helicopter carriers will be held," Sarkozy told a press conference. "The Mistral is a helicopter carrier we will create for Russia without military equipment."
Sarkozy linked the Mistral sale to Russia to mutual trust between the two states, and Medvedev said: "I hope the talks will end in success."
The French president said two of the four Mistral-class ships under discussion could be built in Russia. "Two plus two seems a rather equal, balanced decision to me," he said.
The Russian military earlier announced that it was considering buying one of the Mistral-class amphibious assault ships, worth 400-500 million euros (around $540-$675 million), and potentially building three or four vessels of the same class in partnership with the French naval shipbuilder DCNS.
A Mistral-class ship is capable of transporting and deploying 16 helicopters, four landing barges, up to 70 armored vehicles including 13 battle tanks, and 450 personnel.
Many Russian military and industry experts have questioned the financial and military sense of the purchase, and some believe that Russia simply wants to gain access to advanced naval technology that could be used in the future in potential conflicts with NATO and its allies.
PARIS, March 1 (RIA Novosti)