October 14, 2016 / 9:15 AM / a year ago

Poland says may still buy aircraft from Airbus

Poland's Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski speaks during an interview with Reuters in Warsaw, Poland December 30, 2015. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland could still buy aircraft from Airbus, Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said on Friday, in an apparent attempt to calm a procurement row with France over a cancelled deal to buy 50 helicopters from the French producer.

Waszczykowski said Airbus, Europe’s largest aerospace group, was welcome to participate in any future tenders, and Poland was interested in the company’s sea operations helicopters.

“The Polish army needs helicopters,” Waszczykowski told public broadcaster TVP. “And the Caracals (Airbus helicopters) can take part in various tenders,” he said, adding Poland also needed an airplane for government use.

Poland’s decision to walk away from a preliminary deal to buy Airbus’s utility Caracal helicopters for 13.5 billion zlotys (2.84 billion pounds) has angered Paris, leading French President Francois Hollande to cancel a planned visit this week.

Airbus has threatened legal action, saying the Polish government had been shifting the goal posts as it competed with U.S. and Italian rivals.

Warsaw’s eurosceptic officials argued the French offer, agreed by a previous government last year, was expensive and offered insufficient incentives for domestic industry.

But their decision earlier this month to scrap the deal has added to mounting displeasure with Poland in western Europe and may have cost Warsaw an important ally in its push for tough policy against Russia in the European Union.

It may also delay a vast army refurbishment programme at a time of heightened Russian assertiveness in eastern Europe.

Poland’s prime minister was quoted as saying earlier this week that Warsaw would offer France alternative investment projects after cancelling the helicopter deal.

Reporting by Marcin Goettig; Editing by Mark Potter

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