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Israel cancels deal to give Turks aerial technology 26 décembre 2011

Posted by Acturca in Economy / Economie, Middle East / Moyen Orient, Turkey / Turquie.
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International Herald Tribune (USA) December 26, 2011, p. 3

By Isabel Kershner, Jerusalem

Officials say decision isn’t related to overall ties between 2 nations. Apparently reflecting a profound reassessment of strategic ties with Turkey, a former ally, Israel has canceled a $141 million contract to supply it with an advanced aerial intelligence system.

The contract, between the Israeli military companies that developed the product and the Turkish military, was signed two years ago when relations were not as chilly as they are now, but the first delivery of equipment was due only now. The Israeli Defense Ministry, which issues the export licenses for all such deliveries, decided on Thursday to stop the deal.

There was no immediate comment from the Turkish side on the cancellation of the contract. The decision was most likely made after broader consultation within the Israeli government, said an Israeli military industry official who spoke on the condition of anonymity so he could express himself more freely.

Relations between the two countries began to sour after Israel’s three-week war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip in the winter of 2008-2009. They reached a crisis point in May 2010 when an Israeli commando raid on a Turkish protest vessel, part of an international flotilla challenging Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, led to clashes during which eight Turks and an American of Turkish descent were killed.

In September, after Israel refused to apologize for the deaths, Turkey downgraded diplomatic relations to the lowest level and expelled the Israeli ambassador. Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said at the time that all military agreements had been suspended. The contract just canceled by Israel was the last one outstanding since the deterioration of ties.

Several senior Israeli officials, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak, have indicated support for the idea of apologizing to Turkey. But they also argue that Turkey’s shift toward the Arab world and efforts to become a major regional player make it unlikely that relations with Israel would go back to being as close as they once were.

Apparently in an attempt to prevent further deterioration in Israeli-Turkish relations, Israeli security officials said the decision to cancel the contract was directly related to the specific system in question, and not the overall relationship between the two countries. The officials said that those relations were extremely important to Israel and that Israel was working to improve them.

The Israeli Defense Ministry said in a statement that it « does not usually delineate the particular information or considerations that form the basis of its defense export-policy decisions. »

Such decisions, it said, « are taken in a professional manner and in accordance with the specific diplomatic and security considerations. »

The new equipment that Israel was supposed to supply to Turkey is an optic system based on radar technology that can be installed under the wings of aircraft and give a clear picture of what is happening on the ground in all weather conditions, day or night. It was developed by subsidiaries of Israel Aerospace Industries and of Elbit Systems, which trades on the Nasdaq and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

Turkey, a member of NATO, once ranked as Israel’s closest ally in the Muslim world. Ties between the two countries’ militaries and military industries were particularly strong.

The Israeli military industries official said that despite Turkish declarations about cutting all military ties, working relations between the Israeli military industry and the Turkish military were good until Thursday.

But Israel has been reluctant to send technical teams to Turkey to provide service under previous contracts. In some cases, Turkey has sent equipment to Israel for repairs.

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