The United Arab Emirates is interested in buying one of two French warships originally intended for Russia, according to multiple news reports.
France built the two Mistral-class helicopter carriers for Russia, but canceled the deal after Russia annexed Crimea from the Ukraine last year. France has since agreed to pay Russia more than $1 billion to settle the transaction.
Now, one of the vessels may go to Egypt and another may go to the UAE, according to a recent article in the Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets. A UAE official also confirmed the country is interested in buying one of the ships, according to a story in Defense News.
The French navy operates three of the same type of amphibious assault ship, each of which can house more than a dozen helicopters, several dozen combat vehicles, hundreds of troops and a hospital with several dozen beds.
In 2010, a group of U.S. senators, including John McCain, now chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, urged France and other NATO allies not to sell military equipment to Russia and then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he was concerned about the deal.
It wasn't until Russia stepped up military activity in Eastern Europe last year with support for pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine and the subsequent international sanctions levied against Russian officials that France decided to reconsider the warship sale.
France's training last summer of Russian sailors aboard the first Mistral ship in the French port city of Saint-Nazaire angered its Western partners, who claimed the delivery of the ships would undermine their joint efforts to isolate Russia and condemn its annexation of foreign territory, according to an article in Agence France-Presse.
Saudi Arabia has also reportedly expressed an interest in buying one of the ships, according to a story in the French newspaper Le Monde.