Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Saturday the government would cancel a tender for the purchase of combat aircraft on Monday and then analyse the lessons learned. He added that the government remains resolute about Croatia's maintaining its combat aircraft capabilities.
Speaking at a ceremony marking the 29th anniversary of the Split branch of his HDZ party, Plenkovic said this was the first government which dared enough to adopt the strategic decision to buy fighter jets.
He said the government entered the process transparently and did everything after Israel's offer in good faith and with due attention.
Plenkovic said the government probably would not have adopted the decision had it been clear that the manufacturer, a US company, was convinced that the US administration would not allow the transfer of upgraded aircraft.
"That wasn't that clear nor could one detect it either after the defence minister's visit to the US in July or after the Israeli president's visit. It couldn't be concluded either from the fact that the Israeli F-16 Baraks flew above Knin on August 5."
Plenkovic said the government would meet on Monday and cancel the tender for the purchase of fighter jets, putting the decision on the purchase out of force.
The next step will be decided when the government, the Defence Council and other institutions estimate that the step is necessary, he added.
"Confident that, strategically speaking, we adopted a good decision behind which we stand, we will probably embark on a new process when we estimate the time is right," Plenkovic said in Split, adding that "such things happened in such big operations also in other countries, which were probably doing it for the first time too."
The media reported early December last year that the Trump administration was blocking the purchase of Israeli fighter jets, the deal worth about 3.1 billion kuna ($477 million) that Croatia reached with Israel in March last year.
The US Embassy to Croatia told N1 that the US "wholeheartedly" supported Croatia's acquisition of the aircraft but that specific technical conditions needed to be in place to enable US approval of the transfer.
The Croatia-Israel finally fell through on Thursday, after Director-General of the Israeli Defence Ministry, Udi Adam, visited Zagreb and confirmed that Israel could not get TPT approval for the versions of aircraft it wanted to sell to Croatia.
(1 Croatian kuna = 0.15 US dollar)