Croatia and Israel to Improve Military Partnership

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The two countries will collaborate on military-technical issues, sales, production and procurement of arms, training of military pilots, and other areas.

Croatia and Israel will deepen their political and military ties. Early next week, the two countries will sign a memorandum of understanding, which will represent a legal framework agreement on defence cooperation. The memorandum will be signed in Tel Aviv by defence ministers Damir Krstičević and Avigdor Lieberman, and the text of the agreement has been quickly agreed between the two sides, after experts defined the areas of cooperation which are of mutual interest, reports Večernji List on March 17, 2017.

According to reports, the memorandum includes about twenty areas of military-technical cooperation, including sales, production and procurement of arms, joint training of military pilots and other personnel, security cooperation, doctrinal issues, education and training, and other areas.

Final negotiations started after Croatia in November last year sent to Israel two fire-fighting aircraft and 14 crew members to help fight large-scale wildfires. From the request made by the Israeli government to Croatia to help with the aircraft to the landing of Croatian emergency teams at the Hatzor military base in the central part of Israel passed less than 24 hours. The Israelis soon realized that the commander of Croatian fire-righting squadron, Colonel Davor Turković, is one of the world’s greatest experts when it comes to the strategy of fighting wildfires and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu soon visited the Croatian team.

Defence Minister Krstičević quickly realized that it was possible to use this successful effort to finally come to an agreement on wider military cooperation. Prime Minister Andrej Plenković was also supportive and he officially visited Israel in late January this year. Krstičević and his part of the delegation visited at the time the Israeli Ministry of Defence, where he and his Israeli counterpart Lieberman agreed to start the process of drafting the military agreement.

The upcoming visit next week will help further define Croatian and Israeli interests and needs in defence cooperation. Given that the air force is a burning issue, due to state of the squadron of old MiG-21s, Krstičević’s delegation will include the leadership of the Croatian Air Force. Israel is one of the countries which is considered to be a possible supplier of fighter aircraft that Croatia could buy, together with Sweden, France, South Korea, and the United States. Israelis have begun to replace their F-16s with new F-35s, and the assumption is that they will have a surplus of used aircraft that Croatia could buy.

However, Croatian interest in combat squadron is just one possible area of cooperation and the Defence Ministry does not want the visit to turn into a search for fighter aircraft. Of course, the delegation must not give preferential treatment to anyone, and the Ministry will be equally open to all bidders, some of which, such as the Swedish SAAB, have been in discussions with Croatia for ten years about possible purchase of Gripen aircraft.


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