Brussels: France must find a way to avoid the controversial delivery of two state-of-the-art warships to Russia, Ukraine Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said Monday, adding that the sale would damage international security if it goes ahead.
Paris was due to hand over the first Mistral-class helicopter carrier in October, but as the Ukraine crisis has deepened into the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War, it has postponed delivery for fear of antagonising its allies.
France however faces huge penalties if it breaches the 1.2 billion euro ($1.5 billion) contract, and last week Russia warned of serious consequences if the first ship did not arrive by the end of November.
Klimkin told AFP in an interview that Kiev strongly opposed the sale amid the violence between Russian-backed rebels and government forces in eastern Ukraine, which has claimed more than 4,100 lives.
"I believe that the French authorities in their always creative and committed way should find an option to deliver the Mistral to other entities, in order to ensure security and not harm it," Klimkin said.
"It should be a guiding principle and I`m sure that our French colleagues and friends will find a way."
He did not specify where else he thought the French could sell them.
Some analysts have suggested that the Mistrals could even be stationed in Crimea -- the Ukrainian region annexed by Russia in March which is home to Russia`s key Black Sea fleet -- perhaps playing a role in the conflict itself.
Despite a September ceasefire and peace plan, the violence in Ukraine has continued and escalated in recent weeks, with the West accusing Moscow of stepping up arms deliveries and support for the rebels.