October 26, 2018 / 11:31 AM / 24 days ago

French President Macron regrets Belgium choosing Lockheed jets

French President Emmanuel Macron gestures during a news conference with his Slovak counterpart Andrej Kiska at the Presidential Palace in Bratislava, Slovakia October 26, 2018. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa

BRATISLAVA/PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday that he regretted Belgium’s decision to choose Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth jets over the Eurofighter Typhoon planes.

“It’s a decision that was the result of a process which I greatly respect and which was linked to political constraints specific to Belgium, which are not for me to comment upon, but strategically it goes against European interests,” said Macron at a news conference held with Slovakia President Andrej Kiska.

“For my part, I regret the choice that was made.”

On Thursday, Belgium announced its decision to go with the Lockheed Martin planes to replace its ageing F-16s in a 4 billion euro ($4.5 billion) deal, saying the decision came down to price.

The decision is a setback for Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain, who are behind the Eurofighter program, and also means the rejection of an informal French offer to sell Belgium the Rafale fighter built by Dassault Aviation.

Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Jean-Baptiste Vey; Editing by Michel Rose

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