France and Britain in talks on warship timeshare

Historic rivals and modern day allies France and Britain are in talks on pooling their naval strength, officials said, after reports they might share a fleet of aircraft carriers.

Last Updated: Sep 01, 2010, 00:31 AM IST

Paris: Historic rivals and modern day
allies France and Britain are in talks on pooling their naval
strength, officials said on Tuesday, after reports they might share
a fleet of aircraft carriers.

Neither Paris nor London would confirm a report in the
British press that the Royal Navy and the Marine Nationale
might share carriers, but French officials said the defence
ministers would hold a news conference on Friday.

"We`re in a phase where we must absolutely synchronise
our budget cuts so that, in the end, there`s no loss in our
military capacities," a senior French diplomat told AFP on
condition of anonymity.

"There was a lot of work over the summer. We are
expecting a lot from the Franco-British summit in November. I
hope there`ll be real options," he said, adding that talks had
been under way since June 18.

Another source close to the matter told AFP
discussions were under way at a political level on possible
cooperation in the use of aircraft carriers.

Separately, another French official confirmed that
France`s Defence Minister Herve Morin and Britain`s Liam Fox
would hold a news conference in Paris on Friday, but declined
to comment on Tuesday`s press reports.

Any formal announcement is likely to have to wait
until the Franco-British summit in November, when President
Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister David Cameron will be able
to study the options, officials said.

The British daily The Times reported that Paris and
London plan to share the use of two British and one French
aircraft carriers in order to save money while still
maintaining a vessel always at sea for their common defence.

Britain`s Ministry of Defence refused to confirm or
deny the report.

"The defence secretary has made clear that tough
decisions will need to be made but the complex process of a
strategic defence and security review will be concluded in the
autumn," a spokesman said.

"Speculation at this stage about its outcome is
entirely unfounded."

Nevertheless, the reports followed a series of public
suggestions that France and Britain are preparing an
announcement.

Last week, in a keynote foreign policy address,
Sarkozy said: "I heard the declarations of our British allies
on bilateral cooperation with France. We are ready to discuss
this without taboo.

"France is ready to undertake concrete plans to allow
us to accomplish the toughest combat missions," he added.

PTI