'Unless Israel delivers the upgraded version of F-16s, the tender will be annulled'



Boris Kovačev / CROPIX

Israel F-16 C/D Block 30 BARAK jet

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković stated yesterday in Rijeka that the tender will be annulled unless Israel delivers the F-16s it offered.

- There can be no modification of what we chose in the competition. We will either buy the jets as offered or the tender will be annulled. Anything else would present betrayal of the competition - stressed the PM and announced possibility of annulling the competition for procurement of 12 fighter jets in public for the first time.

The Defence Ministry officially confirmed yesterday that Croatia will not accept F-16 variants other than those offered.

- Croatia insists that all parts of the offer be respected. Israel's offer lists multi-purpose F-16 C/D Block 30 BARAK jets. This is why other variants of the multi-purpose fighter jet are unacceptable - noted the Ministry.

This was in response to our question whether the Ministry of Defence would accept delivery of F-16s from Israel that is not in line with equipment listed in competition documentation, which was agreed on during negotiations on purchase of fighter jets. This means that Croatia will only accept the Israeli F-16 variant with equipment installed by Israeli Army.

Cause of dispute

Among other, the Ministry is looking for jets with Israeli software for launch of anti-radiation missiles, which is one of the reasons for the dispute between USA and Israel. In other words, if the jets are fitted with Lockheed Martin aerospace and defence company's equipment, which US Government is calling for, then Croatia will not want to buy the jets as they are not the BARAK variant.

Croatia's uncompromising attitude is a novelty in the jet procurement case. Until this point, Croatian side did not mention that it would not accept jets with US equipment. Considering USA's rigid stance - it will not allow Israel to sell the jets to Croatia unless its technical requirements are met, it is becoming increasingly likely that we are moving towards rejection of Israel's offer. In that case, several options are possible - annulment of the tender or going with the second best offer, which came from Swedish Saab aerospace and defence company.

New explanations

Several hours before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that the tender could be annulled, Croatian Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said that 'USA and Israel have to provide an explanation'. He still believes that the procurement process is not in jeopardy - 'there is no hurry, we will progress step by step'. Asked whether Croatia was manipulated in the process, he replied: 'We will see at the end of the process'.

We do not know for how long Croatia is prepared to wait for USA and Israel's response. According to unnamed sources, a meeting between US and Israeli officials should take place on Friday. However, there is no official confirmation of this. US and Israeli embassies in Zagreb did not reply to our question about the meeting yesterday.

If the competition in annulled or Israeli offer rejected, it would raise the question of Minister Krstičević's responsibility. He commented on his responsibility in case the jet procurement process falls through yesterday, noting that 'someone is always responsible, which means that I am responsible'-

Inačica na drugom jeziku / Alternate language version