End of the story - Israel admitted to oversight in arranged jet procurement



Zagreb, 100119.
Izjave nakon sastanka izraelske delegacije s predstavnicima Ministarstva obrane i Oruzanih snaga.
Na fotografiji: Damir Krsticevic i Udi Adam.
Foto: Ranko Suvar / CROPIX
Ranko Suvar / CROPIX

Defense Minister Damir Krsticevic (on the left) with the Director-General of Israeli Ministry of Defense Udi Adam

'Israeli representatives informed us that they were, unfortunately, unable to get approval from USA for sale of F-16s to Croatia', said Defense Minister Damir Krstičević yesterday after five and half hours of talks with Israeli delegation.

Croatia is not responsible for this unexpected situation. Krstičević stressed that the contract has not been signed and added that Croatia did not suffer financial damage.

-The Defense Ministry will propose appropriate measures to the Government -announced Krstičević.

 - Unfortunately, conditions were not met and we could not get approval and implement the project due to unforeseen circumstances that were beyond our control. Croatia could not have changed the outcome and cannot be held responsible - said Director-General of Israeli Ministry of Defense Udi Adam. After that Adam and Krstičević shook hands, flashed sour smiles and parted ways. Reporters were not allowed to ask questions.

Long negotiations

That was the end of the long-awaited meeting between representatives of Croatian and Israeli defense ministries, which was held yesterday at the Defense Ministry.

Talks started yesterday at 12:30 p.m. with the arrival of Israeli delegation to the Croatian Defense Ministry, where they were greeted by Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Croatia Mirko Šundov. According to available information, talks lasted just over two hours, after which attendants of the meeting agreed that the two sides should give a joint statement to the press and started discussing their joint statement. It appears that this is where something went wrong.

 At approximately 4 p.m., Croatian Defense Ministry representatives revealed for the press that Minister Krstičević and Israeli delegates will give a statement and added that questions will not be allowed. However, about half an hour later new information was released - the joint statement might not be given. According to sources, the two sides were negotiating on joint statement and it was implied that representatives of the Israeli Defense Ministry were reluctant to stand before the press with their Croatian counterparts.

Mobile telephones banned

Reporters were told that they were not allowed to take mobile telephones to the room where the joint statement was to be given, while broadcasters were banned from reporting on the joint statement live. According to unnamed sources, these were demands of the Israeli side. In the end, Israelis apologized to Croatia, stressing that Croatia is not to blame for the situation.

Before the meeting started, in the morning hours, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković reiterated that Croatia will not suffer any damage with regard to planned procurement of fighter jets from Israel because no agreements were signed. He pointed out that the Government can annul its decision to buy jets if it turns out that the project cannot be implemented.

- There is no purchase agreement, it was not signed and Croatia will not suffer any damage. To the contrary, what we can say is that we did everything in good faith and based on advice of our expert team - said Plenković at the start of the Cabinet session.

- If it turns out that the project cannot be implemented the way we planned on 29 March, the Government can annul the decision, just like it adopted it - he added.

New solution

He stressed that Croatia is definitely willing to maintain its Air Force.

Defense Minister Damir Krstičević noted earlier that he cannot be held accountable for the deal with Israel falling through because he and his team did everything they could to procure fighter jets for Croatia through international competition. "Croatia did nothing wrong, we did everything right, asked all the questions and had all the guarantees," he added.

Asked whether Croatia asked for any guarantees that would earn the State budget some HRK 100 million if the deal fell through, Krstičević pointed out that this is a very complicated job for any country, which is why they insisted in the competition that countries take responsibility for the deal.

He explained that the Ministry referred to parts of the Procurement Act which refer to countries taking responsibility for implementation of agreement.

-There is no agreement, we did not sign one and there is no financial damage for the State budget - he said.

Krstičević confirmed President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović's claim that the Air Force is in sorry state.

- At the moment, Croatia has three working MiG-21s. Contracts for modernization of the jets were signed in 2013 and the jets were to remain operational until 2024, additional 800 hours - confirmed Krstičević and added that someone is responsible for the botched overhaul of MiGs.

Krstičević announced that the Ministry will propose to the Government a new decision for jet procurement, bud did not reveal which.