Wednesday, 2 January 2019

USA and Israel Fail to Agree on Sale of F-16 Fighter Jets to Croatia

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not find a solution for the sale of Israeli F-16 fighter jets to Croatia at their meeting in Brazil on Tuesday, report Večernji List and Jutarnji List on January 2, 2019.

Diplomatic sources close to Israel says that Pompeo and Netanyahu did discuss the topic, but that the agreement was not reached.

Americans remain firm in their position that Israel can only sell to Croatia the original version of the F-16 aircraft, without any upgrades which were added by Israel in the meantime, which is, on the other hand, unacceptable to Croatia.

According to a senior Israeli official, the sale of aircraft to Croatia was the only disagreement Pompeo and Netanyahu did not solve during their meeting. "The matter is stuck in deep bureaucracy,” the Israeli official said.

On December 27, the US State Department sent a letter to Israel with more than ten conditions which need to be met in order for the US government to allow the sale of US-produced aircraft to Croatia. They all boil down to the same - Americans demand that the aircraft, which the Israelis have modernised with 17 modifications, must not have anything on them that is not American.

The deadline for Israel’s final reply expires on Friday, but some saw the meeting between Pompeo and Netanyahu in Brazil, where both of them attended the inauguration of the new Brazilian president, as a possibility for an agreement to be reached. This option does not exist anymore.

It is expected that Croatia will annul its decision to buy the Israeli aircraft and will annul the tender for the purchase of combat aircraft.

The news was first published by the US website Axios, which has extensively covered the issue of the sale of the aircraft to Croatia in recent weeks.

More news on the sale of the aircraft can be found in our Politics section.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Croatia to Cancel F-16 Acquisition If Planes Are Modified?

ZAGREB, December 29, 2018 - The Defence Ministry will propose to the government not to sign the agreement with the Israeli government on the purchase of 12 F-16 fighter jets should they be modified as requested by the US government, because in that case they would no longer be F-16 Barak aircraft with which Israel won the Croatian tender, Defence Ministry official Davor Tretinjak said in a television interview on Friday evening.

"If the whole equipment is changed, both the Israeli and American, and modified with state-of-the-art American equipment, then it's no longer the F-16 CD Barak," Tretinjak told the HTV public television service commenting on the latest media reports that the US was making the sale of the US-made Israeli aircraft conditional on the removal of the Israeli equipment built into them.

In that case, the Defence Ministry would have to propose to the government not to conclude the government to government agreement with Israel and to suspend any further talks, he added.

Asked if that meant that a new tender would be issued, Tretinjak said: "We will see with the government what a Plan B would be and what further steps to take".

The US news website Axios said on Thursday, citing an unnamed Israeli official, that the sale of US-made Israeli fighter jets to Croatia was practically "dead" after outgoing US Defence Secretary James Mattis refused to soften the US terms for the transfer of the aircraft.

To approve the deal, the US demanded that Israel remove the Israeli systems installed in the F-16s and return the jets to their original condition before transferring them to Croatia. HTV said that Israel should respond to the US demands by January 4.

Tretinjak said that Israel had built its own equipment into the F-16 CD Barak and that these modifications were decisive for its selection. "This plane satisfies our needs," he said, adding that Croatia and Israel had been given a guarantee from the US approving the sale of such modified aircraft.

In September, the US State Department sent approval to Israel, which in turn forwarded it to Croatia, giving it permission to sell the F-16 CD Barak aircraft, modified with Israeli equipment, to Croatia. "That letter is filed both in Israel and in the Croatian Defence Ministry," Tretinjak said.

Asked what had changed in the meantime, Tretinjak said he did not know. "We expect this matter to be resolved in the coming days, because so far there has been no mention of replacing the entire equipment of the F-16 Barak with American equipment. In that case it would no longer be a government to government agreement, but several agreements would be required. The Defence Ministry has not been authorised by the Croatian government to conclude such an agreement on the government's behalf nor would it manipulate others. We would bring into question our own transparency, the transparency of the entire procedure," he said.

Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Davor Bernardić said on Friday that Defence Minister Damir Krstičević should make an "honourable and soldierly move" and step down if the purchase of 12 F-16 Barak fighter jets from Israel fell through.

"We should wait and see whether the purchase will go through. If the deal fails, it will be a major international embarrassment for Croatia. I think in that case General Krstičević, who took part in the (1991-1995) Homeland War, will make a responsible, honourable and soldierly move," Bernardić told reporters during a party gathering in Nedelišće, about 100 kilometres north of Zagreb.

The US news website Axios said on Thursday, citing an unnamed Israeli official, that the sale of US-made Israeli fighter jets to Croatia was practically "dead" after outgoing US Defence Secretary James Mattis refused to soften the US terms for the transfer of the aircraft.

More news on the Croatian army can be found in our Politics section.

Friday, 28 December 2018

US Congress Approves F-16 Sale to Croatia, Final Decision Still Unclear

ZAGREB, December 28, 2018 - The US Congress has okayed Israel's sale of F-16 fighter jets to Croatia, whereby the whole procedure has been returned to the State Department for consideration, Večernji List daily said on its website on Thursday. The paper says that members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs did not state, within the legal deadline of 15 days, any objections to the F-16 sale to Croatia, whereby Congress formally approved the proposed transfer of US weapons to a third country.

The paper says this is an important step in the sale but that it does not mean the transfer has been approved. Under the law, Congress approved the sale of the original jets, as they were when the US delivered them to Israel, without the Israeli modifications, and their value was 135 million dollars.

Earlier this month, the US Axios portal said the US was blocking Israel's sale of 12 US-made F-16 Barak jets to Croatia that were about 30 years ago, which Israel upgraded and which would cost Croatia 2.9 billion kuna over a ten-year period.

The US transfers US-made military equipment to partners via the Foreign Military Sales programme, as part of which the buyer commits to requesting Washington's permission in writing before changing the end use, modification or further sale, as regulated via the Third Party Transfer process.

Israel upgraded the old US aircraft with advanced Israeli-made systems in order to persuade the Croatians to buy the jets, Channel 10 has said, adding that the Americans have accused Israel of unfair conduct and making money at America's expense and that, according to Washington, Israel cannot sell to third parties without US approval.

Senior Croatian officials have emphasised several times that they will insist on all the terms of the agreement on the purchase of F-16s with Israel being honoured or a new tender for the purchase of new aircraft will be issued.

US ambassador to Croatia Robert Kohorst said earlier this month that Israel needed to accept the technical requirements so that the US could approve the sale of the 12 fighter jets, adding that this was about who owned the technology and intellectual property rights. "The Israelis need to accept the technical requirements and as soon as that's done we can move forward and the sale can go through," Kohorst said then.

According to Kohorst, "the United States has consistently said what the technical requirements are for more than two years and everyone should have known that these are the technical requirements and so it's a bit of a surprise to me that there is this slowdown right now."

He also explained that "the debate is who will pay for the conversion because the USA and its contractors Lockheed Martin have to do the work because they're the ones who own the technology and intellectual property."

Kohorst said he is sure Israel made its offer in good faith, adding that Croatia, the United States and Israel are "great allies" and will resolve this problem.

More news on the relations between the United States and Croatia can be found in our Politics section.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Comments on Croatian Fighter Jet Sale

The sale of Israeli military aeroplanes to Croatia has been one of the main topics in the media for the last ten days. Croatia has decided to buy 12 F-16 Barak aircraft from Israel. However, since aircraft were produced in the United States, the sale demands US permission, which is where it gets complicated. The planes were built in the 1980s, and the Israelis have done many changes in the meantime. The question is whether the US will allow such a sale to proceed. On the other hand, Croatia has said it only wanted Israeli aircraft F-16 Barak, meaning the modified planes. The deal is in question, and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has now commented on it, reports on December 17, 2018.

He said it was too early to say anything, as reported by Barak Ravid, an Israeli journalist who about ten days ago first published the news about the US decision not to allow the sale.

“There are negotiations between the countries, and I am personally involved. It is too early to make a statement. We are working on this," Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said, referring to the negotiations between Israel and the United States. Netanyahu allegedly talked about this problem with Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović last week.

In the meantime, President Grabar-Kitatović told the media that Croatia had to get the planes it ordered. “We considered absolutely all aspects and all the offers, based on the recommendations of the expert committee that has dealt with it and said that the Israeli bid was the best,” the president said. “We have accepted that opinion and have recommended to the government to proceed with the job. Of course, the final decision is up to the government. It is important to emphasise that the aeroplanes we have agreed on must be the ones delivered to Croatia,” concluded Grabar-Kitarović.

Defence Minister Damir Krstičević defended the deal last week and told reporters that Croatia, as an ally and a friend of the United States and Israel, would wait as long as needed for them to agree. “You know there was a public tender. Croatia must receive the planes which it ordered. The experts defined what kind of planes we need to ensure that Croatia can protect peace and security, and the state of Israel has given its offer,” said Krstičević.

He did not want to say whether Israel had deceived Croatia if Croatian negotiators were not told that Israel did not have a US sales permission. "The process is underway, we will see," he said.

More news on the relations between Croatia and Israel can be found in our Politics section.

Translated from

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Originally Offered F-16 Fighter Jets or Nothing, Says Prime Minister

ZAGREB, December 11, 2018 - Commenting on the latest developments regarding the purchase of F-16 fighter jets from Israel, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday that "the government does not consider the situation to be in any way burdensome for Croatia."

"Last year we sent special delegations to both Israel and the United States and before the government made its decision, there had been no indications of any problem. The burden of obtaining consent from the United States for the delivery of the planes was taken on by the Israeli side. Croatia did everything in good faith, in line with the rules and tender procedure. At this moment, this is a matter of relations between Israel and the United States," Plenković said.

"We will either buy the planes that were originally offered or the tender will be declared null and void, there is no dilemma about it and any other solution .... is out of the question," Plenković said.

Asked if this was a stain for Croatia as a small country depending on the will of big powers, Plenković said that such an attitude "trivialises this topic."

"I will not allow that to happen. As far as the team who was working on this is concerned, things were done professionally and at the moment the decision was made, there were no indications of any problem," Plenković said.

Israel committed itself in writing that it would obtain the US government's approval for the delivery of fighter jets to Croatia and that is exclusively Israel's responsibility, the Croatian Defence Ministry said last Friday and added that if any official notice were to arrive, the public would be informed.

Earlier that day the US Embassy in Zagreb said that it was cooperating with Croatia and Israel on finding an acceptable solution that would enable the confirmation of the agreement on the purchase of Israeli F-16 fighter jets.

The US Embassy said that it had been cooperating with Israel for more than a year regarding the details of the proposed agreement on the purchase of the jets.

The Israeli media have reported that Washington is angry because it believes that by upgrading the electronic systems in the US-made aircraft, Israel has unfairly profited from their sale to Croatia.

The Croatian government in March decided to buy 12, about 30-year-old F-16 Barak fighter jets from Israel. The planes will cost Croatia 2.9 billion kuna over a period of ten years.

More news on Croatia’s military can be found in our Politics section.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Minister Still Hopeful About Fighter Jet Purchase

ZAGREB, December 9, 2018 - Defence Minister Damir Krstičević has said that Croatia will not pay any additional costs for the purchase of 12 F-16 fighter jets from Israel after the U.S. insistence that Israel must comply with the technical criteria Washington set in order to okay Croatia’s fighter jet purchase from Israel.

The planes, which are the subject matter of the procurement deal and which were produced by the U.S. Lockheed Martin, have subsequently got sophisticated electronic systems which Israel has added to them, and Washington now insists that they should be reversed to the previous form.

Israeli media have reported that US Secretary of Defence James Mattis is not allowing Israel to sell 12 F-16 fighter jets to Croatia. The US administration must give its consent to the country to which it has sold its planes if that country wants to sell them to a third country.

Asked by the press on Saturday whether Israel or Croatia would cover the costs of those planned technical changes, Minister Krstičević said that there were no additional costs for his country. "The tender is clear. The tender has been transparent and in line with laws. We know what we have asked for. The bids were opened publicly. The price is known. As far as Croatian is concerned, there are no additional costs," Krstičević said after attending a gathering of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) youth association's meeting.

Asked whether he would resign in the event that this deal failed, the minister said that he would not answer hypothetical questions.

He went on to say that Croatia was given the documentation showing that the U.S. Administration allowed Israel to offer its F-16 planes to Croatia.

On Friday, when the news broke out about the complications in the delivery of the fighter jets over the U.S. requirements set to Israel, Krstičević recalled that the U.S. government had given Israel permission to offer the Israeli F-16 jets to Croatia. "We have a document to that effect. In its bid, Israel undertook to deliver to Croatia aircraft that is compatible with NATO and obliged itself to ensure that the extension of the planes' service life complies with the original manufacturer's criteria. Delivery, too, is the responsibility of the State of Israel. Based on those documents and the tender, we made the decision on the purchase of the multipurpose fighter jets and the process was legal and transparent," Krstičević said yesterday.

In late March, the Croatian government unanimously adopted a decision to buy 12 F-16 C/D Barak jets that were about 30 years old. Croatia is supposed to pay 2.9 billion kuna for the planes over a period of ten years.

More news on the Croatian military can be found in our dedicated section.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Defence Minister Visits Croatian UNFIL Contingent in Lebanon

ZAGREB, November 30, 2018 - Croatia's Defence Minister Damir Krstičević, Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Mirko Šundov, and Army Commander General Siniša Jurković, paid a visit to the Croatian UNFIL contingent in Lebanon, which is part of the UN-led peace mission in Lebanon, on 28-29 November, the Defence Ministry said in a press release on Thursday.

The 51-strong second Croatian contingent is deployed within the Italian Garibaldi Brigade.

The Croatian delegation held talks with the UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander, Major General Stefano Del Colo, and the Commander of the Sector Headquarters in Shamaa, General Diodato Abagnara.

Del Colo commended on the engagement and performance of the Croatian contingent and expressed satisfaction with Croatia's contribution to peace-building efforts.

Minister Krstičević was quoted as saying that he was proud of the Croatian troops in Lebanon. Our participation in UNIFIL makes the Croatian military's interoperability stronger and facilitates efforts to upgrade its capabilities, he said.

Our army engineers are engaged in reconstructing UN camps, gravel roads and paths, and our personnel also provide security on the bases and work for the benefit of the local population, General Jurković said. He praised the Croatian troops for performing their tasks professionally and honourably.

UNIFIL has around 10,500 peacekeepers coming from 41 countries.

According to Security Council resolutions 425 and 426 of 1978, UNIFIL was established to confirm the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon, restore international peace and security, and assist the Lebanese government in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area.

According to Security Council Resolution 1701 of 2006, UNIFIL is authorised to take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces and to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind.

For more on Croatia’s Defence Ministry, click here.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Croatia Supports Kosovo on Its Journey to NATO

ZAGREB, November 7, 2018 - Croatia is prepared to share its knowledge and assist Kosovo on its Euro-Atlantic journey, just as it has assisted Montenegro and just as it is helping Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatian Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said after his meeting with the visiting Minister of the Kosovo Security Force, Rrustem Berisha.

"The Croatian Army is an example of professional and supreme preparedness and we are ready to share our knowledge with our partner Kosovo and assist it on its Euro-Atlantic journey, the same way we have assisted Montenegro and the way we are helping Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina," Krstičević said.

Berisha said Croatia was a friendly country and a strategic partner, adding that Kosovo could learn a lot from Croatia. "With this meeting, we want to boost cooperation which is in the interest of both of our countries, but also in the interest of peace and stability of the entire region," Berisha said.

The talks also focused on the process of transforming the Kosovo Security force. Berisha briefed Krstičević about three draft laws, stressing that they were "in accordance with the Constitution and the new Kosovo Security Force mandate and will be in the interest of all citizens."

During his stay in Zagreb, Berisha also visited the company for the production of military equipment – HS-Produkt – which, according to Krstičević, was an opportunity for equipping and modernising the Security Force, but also an opportunity for the Croatian military industry.

The talks also focused on good cooperation in the education sector. Krstičević said that over the law five years, a total of 40 Security Force members have been trained at a Croatian military academy.

For more on Croatia’s relations with Kosovo, click here.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Croatia and Austria to Work on Defence Cooperation

ZAGREB, October 30, 2018 - Croatian Defence Minister Damir Krstičević met on Tuesday with his Austrian counterpart Mario Kunasek to discuss ways to deepen the cooperation between the defence sectors of Croatia and Austria, the Croatian ministry reported.

Krstičević was on an official, reciprocal visit to Austria, after Kunasek paid an official visit to Croatia in May.

The two countries' defence sectors cooperate within the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy, and they have a well-developed cooperation in military training and education, between their military academies and with regard to the training of special forces.

"Agreement was reached to further expand cooperation in the field of defence during the Austrian minister's visit to Croatia next year, when a cooperation agreement will be signed, including cooperation between military academies, cooperation between special forces, and the exchange of experience in assistance to civilian institutions," Krstičević said after the meeting.

Kunasek said that Croatia was a very important and reliable partner to Austria, investing significant effort in the field of defence cooperation. In 2019 Croatia and Austria will organise around 40 joint activities that will expand the current agreement on defence cooperation from 1998, said Kunasek.

The two ministers also agreed to further deepen bilateral cooperation in Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) projects.

Together with Hungary and Slovenia, Croatia and Austria have launched a PESCO project dedicated to removing nuclear, biological and chemical threats.

Krstičević expressed satisfaction with the meeting with his Austrian counterpart, the third meeting held this year, and underlined its importance for the security of Southeast Europe.

Regional stability and border security in regional and global challenges are among shared priorities, the two ministers said.

This is just one in a series of moves by Croatian government to improve defence cooperation with countries in the European union. For more on activities of Croatia's defence ministry, click here.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Army Defends Military Exercise Costs

ZAGREB, October 18, 2018 - The commanders of a three-day military exercise dubbed "Velebit 18 - Joint Force" on Thursday reported that the manoeuvre cost 8.075 million kuna, expressing their satisfaction with the exercise results and underscoring that it showed that Croatia's army is the successor of the victorious army in the Homeland War.

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