Lithuania's Minister of Defence Juozas Olekas says that his French counterpart told him at a meeting earlier this week that Paris was searching for ways to solve the issue of Mistral warships that France had built for Russia but suspended the handover following outcry from EU and NATO allies.
© Sipa Press/Scanpix

"I spoke with the French defence minister, and he restated that the problem continues and they certainly understand how sensitive it is, but are searching for different ways of solving it," Olekas told journalists in Vilnius on Wednesday.

In his words, Lithuania's position is that "the ship should not be handed over to a country engaged in aggression against its neighbours."

The Lithuanian minister and France's Jean-Yves Le Drian briefly met in the framework of the session of European Union (EU) defence ministers in Brussels on Tuesday.

Under the initial agreement, France was to hand over the first Mistral ship, which is designed to carry over a dozen helicopters and up to 450 troops, to Russia in October. The handover was suspended in the wake of the war in Ukraine. However, Paris has not announced its final decision yet.

Russia threatens to demand high fines, if France fails to follow through the 1.2-billion-euro contract.

"The main problem is the money that they [France] have invested in the production of ships and ways of compensating for the losses," said Olekas.

The Lithuanian minister said the Mistral issue should be on the agenda of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg's visit in Lithuania on Friday.

Jean-Yves Le Drian
Jean-Yves Le Drian
© DELFI / Šarūnas Mažeika
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