France hopes to seal Romania 1.2 billion euro warship deal quickly

FILE PHOTO: French Foreign Minister Le Drian meets his Dutch counterpart Hoekstra in Paris

BUCHAREST (Reuters) -France hopes a deal to sell four warships to Romania for 1.2 billion euros ($1.35 billion) will be concluded soon, as the two sides look to ensure security in the Black Sea, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday.

Defence firm Naval Group won the contract to build four Gowind navy corvettes for Romania as well as renovate two existing frigates in 2019 in partnership with Romanian company Santierul Naval Constanta, but the deal was held up pending legal challenges.

Romania's defence ministry said the two companies have until the end of February to decide whether they will go ahead with the deal, adding the price was not negotiable.

Romania's navy is the least modernised of its military branches. The country, a NATO state since 2004 and European Union one since 2007, has ramped up its defence spending in recent years.

NATO has a multinational land force of up to 4,000 troops in Romania and the country also hosts a U.S. ballistic missile defence station.

($1 = 0.8858 euros)

(Reporting by Luiza Ilie and John Irish; Editing by Alex Richardson)