Croatian officials are due to meet with Israeli defence officials in Zagreb on Thursday to discuss whether Israel will be able to sell Croatia 12 American-made F-16's with Israeli upgrades.
If Israel is unable to deliver the planes Croatia wants, the government is prepared to scrap the deal, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković has said.
“First we will see what the Israeli defence officials will tell us tomorrow, and then make the appropriate decisions,” said Plenkovic when asked whether a new tender for the purchase of combat aircraft would be announced.
He reiterated that Croatia had made a choice between four bids, of which Israel’s was the best. Croatia will not incur any financial damages in the case the deal is axed because no purchase agreement has been signed, he said.
Plenković said he wants to hear from Israeli officials why the deal, which seemed fine a year ago, when Croatia sent delegations to both Israel and the US, is now in doubt.
He said the tender had been transparent and that all the information Croatia had received had been verified several times. The selection was made on the basis of the information known at that time, he said, adding that some new information had surfaced more recently.
A local website specializing in defence and security news claims to have confirmation from several sources of the existence of a US non-paper sent to top Croatian officials a year ago regarding Croatia's plans to purchase the fighter aircraft. Obris.org claims the non-paper clearly warned Croatian officials of the terms under which Israel was allowed to sell its used F16s, which were originally part of a US aid package to Israel.
Croatian officials, including President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and Defense Minister Damir Krstićević, have denied there is such a document. The procurement of the planes was transparent and the only issue now is that time is being wasted while Croatia only has 3 functioning MIG 21 aircraft, the President told reporters on Wednesday.
“I think this issue has been blown grossly out of proportion in recent days. There is no paper that warns of a problem with the Israeli offer or any other offer,” she said.
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