US Ambassador Kohorst says he had informed PM of process for F-16 sale approval

NEWS 28.01.2019 12:23
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Source: N1

US Ambassador to Croatia, Robert Kohorst, said on Monday that he had informed Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic of the process of getting approval for the sale of US-made Israeli F-16 Barak jets to Croatia, which, almost year after the deal was reached, definitively fell through earlier this month.

Kohorst commented on Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic’s statement, made in an interview with N1 on Sunday, that the US had never sent any documents warning about possible problems regarding the sale of Israeli F-16 Barak jets to Croatia, and that only a so-called white paper was sent by the US, containing technical instructions for all bids submitted to the Croatian Defence Ministry that referred to the originally US-made aircraft.

“I believe what the President was referring to was a paper that I gave to the Prime Minister, which outlined the process for getting approval for the F-16. It wasn’t really a white paper, it wasn’t critical about the process, it was more an information piece about how the process worked,” Kohorst told N1.

In March last year, Croatia had reached a deal with Israel on the procurement of 12 F-16 C/D Barak fighter jets, worth about 3.1 billion kuna ($477 million). The aircraft, between 25 and 30 years old, were intended to replace the outdated Soviet-made MiG-21 aircraft currently used by the Croatian Air Force.

However, the media reported in December that the Trump administration was blocking the deal, since the aircraft were originally manufactured by the US company Lockheed Martin, and US insisted that the planes must be stripped of modernised electronics installed by the Israeli Air Force before being transferred to a third party.

“I believe we communicated to everyone there was a regular process called third-party transfer, that required US government approval for the transfer, and they were aware of how that process worked,” Kohorst said on Monday, adding he didn’t know if everyone knew all the details, but “they certainly knew the general process.”

When asked why the process had failed in the end, he said: “You know, frankly, I don’t know.”

“The US government approved the transfer, and then the Israeli government and the Croatian government weren’t able to (reach an agreement) with the terms of that approval.”

Earlier in January, Israeli delegation had arrived in Croatia to inform the defence ministry that it cannot get the US approval for the delivery of the fighter jets, officially declaring the deal dead.

Grabar-Kitarovic had told N1 on Sunday that the United States had been clear from the very start about the technical requirements for the transfer of F-16 fighter jets, but that nobody could have predicted the problems that arose between the USA and Israel regarding the matter.

Kohorst on Monday repeated that the US had approved the transfer of jets returned to the original configuration.

“No, the US government gave approval for the transfer, it’s just the conditions of that approval weren’t acceptable to all the parties… it was required that the planes be brought back to the original NATO configuration, which is the type of aircraft that Croatia needs in order to be a NATO partner.”

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