January 19, 2019
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Croatia axes used Israeli F-16 fighter jets purchase after US blocks sale

Zagreb, Jan 11 (efe-epa).- The Croatian government announced on Friday it had scrapped a plan to purchase a dozen second-hand Israeli fighter jets after Tel Aviv advised Zagreb it had been refused authorization by the United States government to close the deal.

The contract, valued at around 3 billion Croatian kunas ($470m), negotiated last March, involved the sale of a dozen used Israeli F-16D multi-role fighter jets, manufactured by the US between 1987-88 and fully compliant with NATO specifications. Croatia became a NATO member in 2009.

"Israel has formally informed the Defense Ministry, that contrary to the obligations it assumed, unfortunately, it cannot get the required approval from the United States to deliver the Israeli F-16 Barrack fighter jets to Croatia," said Croatian Minister of Defense, Damir Krsticevic, during a press conference, where he declined to take further questions.

The defense minister added that: "the sale contract between Croatia and Israel has not been signed" and therefore "absolutely no financial damage has been done to Croatia."

The contract was axed due to Washington's demands that all US-propriety avionics technology, added later by Israel, be removed prior to the aircraft delivery to Croatia, to which Croatia responded by announcing it would terminate the standing agreement.

Croatia's president, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, expressed this week her concern regarding the Croatian air force's three remaining Mig 21 Soviet-era fighter-jets, specifically their ability to remain in action until 2024, when their operational life terminates.

Croatia's prime minister, Andrej Plenkovic, recently warned that, should the Israeli deal fall through, the Balkan nation would seek other options to guarantee the defense of their national airspace.

Defense analysts and opposition members had expressed their belief the Croatian cabinet must have been aware, from the onset, of the difficulties involved in obtaining third-party technological transfer approval from the US government.

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