Accusing each other of hypocrisy, France and UK clash over MH17 disaster response

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 July, 2014, 11:38pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 July, 2014, 11:38pm


Britain and France are trading accusations of hypocrisy over sanctions against Russia in a row that reveals deeper European divisions on how to react to the MH17 disaster, analysts say.

Britain has slammed France's €1.2 billion (HK$12.5 billion) warship deal with Moscow, while Paris says London remains a haven for Russian oligarchs.

The row grew on Wednesday when a parliamentary report revealed Britain had suspended or revoked only 34 of 285 outstanding arms export licences to Russia worth £132 million (HK$1,745m).

France is not the only one … who has a defence relationship with Moscow

"We can see tensions in the EU over sanctions, which are inevitable given each country has a different relationship with Russia," said Sarah Lain, a research fellow at London's Royal United Services Institute think-tank.

"France is really against breaking this contract, it would harm French interests a lot more than Russian interests. Then the British parliamentary report has drawn attention to the fact that France is not the only one in Europe who has a defence relationship with Moscow."

EU foreign ministers on Tuesday agreed to widen sanctions and consider an arms embargo.

The Franco-British slanging match centres on Paris' reluctance to scupper a deal to sell two helicopter warships to Russia.

President Francois Hollande said the first would be delivered in October, but the second would depend on "Russia's attitude".

British Prime Minister David Cameron said that "in this country it would be unthinkable to fulfil an order like [this one]".

The leader of Hollande's Socialist party, Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, hit out at "hypocrites". He said Britain should tackle Putin's allies who park money in the City of London.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said: "I was led to believe that there were quite a few Russian oligarchs in London."