DUBAI — A United Arab Emirates government official has confirmed to Defense News the government's interest in acquiring one of two French Mistral-class amphibious assault ships originally ordered by Russia in 2011.

France and Russia last month reached a political agreement to cancel the Mistral deal and Paris is paying back Moscow's advance payments on the two warships. The contract for the two ships was terminated after Russia halted payments for the ships following the European sanctions imposed on the country for its involvement in the Ukraine crisis. France paid Russia more over than US $1one billion in compensation for the non-delivery.

"Our interest in purchasing the ship is real, it fulflils the capability requirements for our forces," the government source said. "The Mistral ships are in line with our equipment and capabilities." the source added.

A report published Wednesday by Russian-language newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets quoted Russian military sources stating that Russia has given France the green light to sell the two ships helicopter carriers to Egypt and the UAE.

Russian Arabic-language television channel Russia Today quoted presidency spokesperson Dmitry Peskov as saying that his country hopes France, now free to use the ships after settling its dues, would take Russian interests into account when reselling the warships to a third party.

According to unnamed Russian sources close to the deal quoted by Moskovsky Komsomolets, Egypt will purchase the ship with direct Russian financial support and would also have to commit to the purchase of a number of Russian Ka-52 helicopters.

"If this deal goes through, for Russia it is very advantageous, since the loan is in fact a trademark: a large consignment of helicopters will be based at our Russian defense industry, taxes will go into our budget, and the borrower does not receive the money but the product — helicopters made in Russia," the source was quoted.

The UAE official did not confirm whether the deals were reached at the MAKS 2015 airshow in Moscow last week. No Egyptian officials were immediately available to comment.


Awad Mustafa was a Middle East and Africa correspondent for Defense News.

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