PARIS, April 21. /TASS/. The French side has made a decision to name an official in charge of holding negotiations with Moscow on the issue of the Mistral-class helicopter carriers, the Paris Match weekly news magazine reported on Tuesday.
The decision has been announced by French President Francois Hollande, according to the report. Louis Gautier, who heads an important government body, the General Secretariat for Defence and National Security (SGDSN), will be tasked with the effort.
Gautier has led the secretariat, which is under the supervision of the French prime minister, since October 2014. He is a prominent French expert on the issue of defence and armed forces.
According to Paris Match, Gautier already held a round of negotiations in Moscow on March 30-April 1 which also involved Herve Guillou, the head of France’s naval company, DCNS.
This company is the prime contractor for two Mistral helicopter carriers under the deal signed with Russia’s state arms trader Rosoboronexport in June 2011. The contract is worth 1.2 billion euros.
The French president said on Sunday that talks were underway with Russia on the Mistral issue in an effort to "find the way out of the crisis." He said the issue could be discussed on April 24.
Under the contract, Russia was expected to receive the first of the two warships, the Vladivostok, in the autumn of 2014. However, Paris suspended the ship’s handover to Russia at the very last moment over Moscow’s stance on developments in neighboring Ukraine.
It was planned that the second ship dubbed the Sevastopol would be handed over to Russia in the second half of 2015. But the deal was suspended like in the case with the first Mistral ship.