Croatia insists on the F-16s with the Israeli upgrades (Photo: HRT) Croatia insists on the F-16s with the Israeli upgrades (Photo: HRT)

Croatia has threatened to axe the arms deal if it doesn't get the planes with the sophisticated electronic and radar systems installed by the Israelis after they took ownership of the jets some 30 years ago.

"We are waiting for a response from Israel. If things remain as they stand today, chances are that the government will cancel the deal,” Prime Ministr Andrej Plenković told HRT in an interview on Thursday.

Plenković said his government would have no doubts about scrapping the agreement if Israel could not deliver the planes it promised. He added that there had been no indication over the past few weeks that US approval would be an issue.

The potential failure of the arms purchase has put pressure on Defense Minister Damir Krstičević, its leading proponent. He has given Israel until January 11 to give Croatia a final answer whether it can deliver the planes or not.

"If they wrote into the agreement that this is their responsibility, why should I be held accountable for the actions of a third party?  I do not feel that I or my team did anything that goes against the interests of the Republic of Croatia," Krstičević said on Friday.

He added that he would be willing to step down if that was in the interest of the country.

Israel and Croatia struck a tentative deal for the sale of 12 upgraded F-16 Barak fighters for 500 million USD in March of last year, pending U.S. approval. The F-16s were part of a US military aid package granted to Israel in the early 1990s.