The United Arab Emirates is eyeing a French Mistral warship, a government official told Defense News Friday. At least two other Arab countries have publicly expressed their interest in the aircraft carriers, of which there are two.
"Our interest in purchasing the ship is real, it fullfils the capability requirements for our forces," the official from the United Arab Emirates, or UAE, said. "The Mistral ships are in line with our equipment and capabilities."
French originally sold the two ships to Russia in 2011, but canceled the deal over Russia's involvement in the Ukraine conflict. In August, the countries reached a deal for France to pay Russia more than $1 billion, because Moscow had made advance payments before the deal fell through.
— RT (@RT_com) August 27, 2015
The UAE is not the only country in the Middle East that appears to be interested. Neighboring Saudi Arabia, as well as Egypt, have also been eyeing the carriers as they face the growing power of the Islamic State group and the nuclear deal with Iran.
"Egypt and Saudi Arabia are desperate to buy two Mistrals," the official told French newspaper Le Monde, AFP reported in early August.
Saudi Arabia could lose out, however. The Mistrals have reportedly been designated for Egypt and the UAE, a report in a Russian-language newspaper indicated, citing sources in the Russian military. The report added that Russia would help Egypt fund the purchase, provided Egypt also buys several Russian Ka-52 helicopters.
Some military experts had previously expected Saudi Arabia to purchase both ships, one on behalf of Egypt.
The UAE, one of the smallest nations the Middle East, is a part of the Saudi-led coalition conducting airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Twenty-two of its soldiers, out of several thousand deployed in Yemen, have been killed in the fighting there, state media reported Friday. Since 2001, the UAE has spent more than $19 billion on weapons and arms just from the United States, Vocativ has reported.