France renews offer for Turkey’s multibillion-dollar missile defense program

France renews offer for Turkey’s multibillion-dollar missile defense program

Vahap Munyar – ISTANBUL
France renews offer for Turkey’s multibillion-dollar missile defense program

AA photo

Turkey is nearing a final decision on the country to build its national missile defense system, as France challenges China with a renewed offer, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, referring to Eurosam, the joint French-Italian offer.

“We are getting close to finalizing it,” Erdoğan told journalists responding to a question on the multibillion-dollar project while returning to Turkey from a trip to the Japanese capital of Tokyo. 

“Chinese President [Xi Jinping] will be in Turkey in November as part of the G-20 [annual meeting],” Erdoğan said. 

“France has also renewed its offer,” he said, adding that his French counterpart, François Hollande, sent him a letter via Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu when they met at the United Nations General Assembly last month. 

“What we are particularly focusing on in terms of the missile tender is joint production and technological gains,” he said, hinting at Turkey’s desire to participate in the development of a system that might add know-how to the country. 

While responding to a question on whether a political choice would play a role in Turkey’s pick, Erdoğan said his previous negative statements about the European Union were linked to the fact that the bloc had strung “Turkey along for more than 50 years” over accession. However, during a recent visit to Brussels, which he visited before Japan, he witnessed a positive stance. “The situation is changing,” he said. 

Ankara selected a Chinese company in September 2013 to build the air defense architecture, but immediately came under heavy pressure from its Western allies for the decision, it also opened parallel negotiations this summer with a European contender in the multibillion-dollar competition. 

Contract negotiations with the Chinese manufacturer, China Precision Machinery Import Export Corp. (CPMIEC), are also in progress, but Erdoğan said earlier that talks had also been opened with Eurosam.

Following an assessment by Turkey’s top defense procurement agency, the Defense Industry Executive Committee selected CPMIEC as the best bidder and Eurosam as the second. 

A U.S. partnership of Raytheon and Lockheed Martin came third in the bidding. CPMIEC offered a solution with a price tag of $3.44 billion.

A fourth bidder, a Russian manufacturer eliminated in September 2013, could re-enter the picture depending on how keen the Russians would be to improve it, defense sources said.  

Meanwhile, Turkey is continuing talks with NATO and its bilateral partners to enhance its defense capabilities, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Tanju Bilgiç said Oct. 9, noting the discussions include Patriot missiles.

The U.S. is set to withdraw its Patriot missiles from the southeastern province of Gaziantep, while Germany’s batteries in the southern province of Kahramanmaraş will be removed on Oct. 15, the spokesperson said. 

Spain’s batteries in the southern province of Adana will remain in place until January 2016, he said, noting that Madrid had yet to make a decision to extend the mission of their batteries.